Bloomberg administration eyes health care hike for city employees, despite unions' resistance
Wednesday, October 26th 2011, 4:00 AM: Heath Korvola/Getty
Faced with the possiblity of higher insurance premiums, a visit to the doctor could become a more expensive trip for city workers.
Mayor Bloomberg is eying a sacred perk of city employees as a way to balance the budget - nearly free health care.
One of the mayor's newest top deputies Tuesday told a midtown gathering of business leaders that as the city confronts a mounting budget crisis, he plans to target the generous medical benefits that most employees receive without contributing to their annual premiums.
"New York City employees really are unique in that they don't...make a contribution to health care," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told a breakfast gathering hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission. "So we're going to be tackling that."
Bloomberg has long called for employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums - but unions so far have resisted the effort.
Major labor groups have largely been unwilling to engage in serious negotiations with Bloomberg in his third term, preferring to work under expired contracts in hopes that the next mayor might be more generous.
The mayor, however, may try to force unions to the table with the threat of layoffs - a tactic that has worked for Gov. Cuomo in brokering several new contracts.
Bloomberg instructed his commissioners this month to find ways to cut $2 billion in spending from the city's $66 billion budget - a move that some say could mean a loss of hundreds of city jobs.
Sanitation union leader Harry Nespoli, who heads the citywide labor umbrella group that negotiates benefits with the mayor, says the Albany situation isn't comparable.
He accused Bloomberg of playing games with the budget.
"For the last two years, the city has talked about a [budget] deficit and came up with a reserve," Nespoli said. "I have a funny feeling that even in the years coming up there's going to be a reserve."
He said city workers are happy to negotiate any proposal with the mayor, but scoffed at the notion that workers aren't paying their share.
"We pay co-pays now," he said. "We have outstanding contracts right now and people have gone years without raises....I don't know how much more they want."