Police Officers and Firefighters Rally Against City’s Disability Pay Proposal

A debate over whether newly hired police and firefighters should get the same disability pay as veteran workers is heating up and is once again putting the mayor at odds with the police unions. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

Officer Rosa Rodriguez was critically injured in a fire last year. Officer James Li was shot by a fare beater on a bus in Brooklyn.

"And when he went to grab him, turned, opened up fire on him and shot him in both legs," said Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

While rallying at City Hall, the police and firefighter unions said these are clear examples of why Mayor Bill de Blasio should support increasing disability pay for newly hired first responders.

Six years ago, state law reduced the disability pay to 50 percent of a person's salary from 75 percent for everyone hired after 2009. The unions and their supporters say it's a slap in the face.

"When a bullet comes their way, no one asks the question, when you were hired. When you are caught in a fire, no one asks the question, when you were hired. We should treat them all the same," said Public Advocate Letitia James.

Only state legislators can change the law, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he's on board with increasing the disability pay. He opposed it three years ago.

Now, it's one more issue where the mayor and governor disagree. The de Blasio administration says returning to 75 percent of a person's salary would cost too much money.

"And subject New York to unsustainable fiscal implications that would impinge on our ability to deliver vital services," said Labor Relations Commissioner Robert Linn.

During a City Council hearing Friday, the Labor Relations Commissioner said the proposed disability pay increase would cost the city $342 million through 2019. He says the mayor's alternative plan would still pay 50 percent and use the employee's highest base salary to calculate it. That would cost the city about $47 million.

Unions say it falls short.

"Firefighters and police officers need to know if they're permanently injured in the line of duty that their family will be taken care of," said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Albany lawmakers don't need the mayor's support to approve the increase, but they have only have two-and-a-half weeks left in their scheduled session to vote on the measure.

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