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N.Y. Mayor Hints at Police Layoffs to Cut Costs

The New York Times

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg suggested yesterday that layoffs of police officers could result if a labor arbitrator awarded them too much money in their current contract dispute with the city.

The police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has gone to labor arbitration, hoping that an arbitrator will award officers more than the raises totaling 5 percent over roughly three years accepted as part of a citywide pattern by District Council 37 and several other nonuniformed unions.

But city officials have fought against setting up an arbitration panel, saying the contract dispute should be settled at the bargaining table.

On his radio program yesterday on WABC-AM, the mayor warned that if an arbitrator were too generous, it could potentially cost the union some jobs, particularly if there were no work rule changes to save the city money.

"If the arbitrator were to give them more than the pattern and there was no change in work rules that would let us generate the money, we'd just have to do it with fewer police officers," the mayor said.

"Hopefully you can do it with fewer because of attrition, but it is not like there is a pile of money out there that everybody thinks they can get. That pile of money doesn't exist. And I'd love to give the teachers a new contract."

City Hall officials - who would only speak anonymously for fear of offending the mayor - were quick to dismiss the idea that the city would lay off police officers.

Asserting that the Police Department was already suffering from dangerously low staffing levels, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the P.B.A., added: "The mayor is trying to use scare tactics to improperly influence the arbitration panel. All we want is a fair hearing before that panel and fair compensation for police officers to fix both their salary problem and the city's recruitment and retention problem."

The city's current contract talks with the teachers are also at a standstill, with teachers' union officials demanding raises bigger than those granted other city unions, and the city demanding contract changes that would eliminate tenure for teachers.

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