The de Blasio administration has canceled a long-scheduled $900 million deferred compensation payout to current and former teachers, citing the coronavirus-induced financial crisis.
The payout due this month — the last in the series of five stemming from union negotiations between 2009 and 2011 — was called off as the city attempts to limit the number of administration-wide layoffs, First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan wrote to the teacher’s union Thursday.
“It is the city’s desire to avoid the necessity for layoffs, and to make a retroactive payment at this time would therefore be fiscally irresponsible,” Fuleihan wrote in a letter to Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers.
“The City regrets having to take this necessary action, particularly in light of the assistance and cooperation of the union and its members in opening schools over the past several weeks,” he added.
The canceled payment comes, as Fuleihan referenced, while teachers put their lives at risk returning to classrooms for blended learning this school year as the pandemic rages on.
Mulgrew said the union will go directly to arbitration to fight for the wages and that an arbitration hearing was scheduled for Friday.
“I will go into arbitration tomorrow. We will present that case, which is very simply: we want the money that you owe us now,” Mulgrew said in a video message to union members.
“We all understand that we’re in a pandemic; that our economy has basically been wrecked–both here in the city, at the state and nationally — but this money is money that we have already earned…from over 10 years ago,” he added, “and the city needs to make good on their obligation.”
City Hall spokesman Bill Neidhardt recognized the work of teachers during a chaotic school year but said the decision was necessary to preserve jobs.
“This action is necessary to avoid painful layoffs,” he said in a statement, “but make no mistake, New York City recognizes our teachers go above and beyond for our students and schools every day.”