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Tentative N.Y. Fire Accord Reached

Budget crisis and the Sept. 11 terror attacks slowed negotiations.

November 14, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — City Hall and the firefighters' union reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a wage increase after drawn-out negotiations complicated by a budget crisis and the hero status accorded New York's firefighters after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The firefighters would receive a retroactive 10% raise for the two years they worked without a contract, union president Steve Cassidy said. The agreement is subject to ratification by the union's 9,000 firefighters.

"I think this is as good as we could possibly do," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "I wish we could afford to pay them more."

Some firefighters also welcomed the agreement.

"With the climate in City Hall and so forth, I really didn't see them doing that much for us," said nine-year firefighter Martin Hurley.

Union leaders, politicians and celebrities have called for firefighters to receive what they call just compensation for their sacrifices of Sept. 11 when 343 firefighters died.

The period covered by the raise ended in June. Cassidy said the union would begin negotiating another contract.

"By no means do I feel this package represents the value of what our members are truly worth," he said. "Given the circumstances, given the hand we were dealt from, we felt that this is the best we could do."

Rank-and-file firefighters have worked for more than two years without a raise or union contract. A recruit earns about $31,000 a year. After 20 years, salaries can reach about $55,000.

With a $42-billion annual budget, New York City faces an estimated deficit of $5 billion to $6 billion next year.

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