A New York City education panel should delay voting on a $120 million contract for Verizon Communications Inc until the telecommunications company settles a strike by 45,000 of its workers in a Northeast unit, the city comptroller said on Wednesday.
In making the recommendation, Democratic City Comptroller John Liu became the first city politician to pressure Verizon to settle the strike after negotiations broke down over the costs of health-care contributions, pensions and work rules.
No city agency should take sides in a disagreement between labor and management, and a 'yes' vote would equate to a validation of Verizon's demands, Comptroller John Liu said in a statement. Instead, the suitable action would be to wait until an agreement is reached, he added.
Verizon workers, who include technicians and customer service representatives, have gone on strike in nine states at a time when governors and mayors around the nation are pressuring their unionized public workers to accept cost-saving concessions ranging from wage freezes to higher pension contributions -- or risk layoffs.
The city's pension funds own Verizon shares so the city comptroller also could use the clout these holdings give him to turn the heat up further on Verizon.
Liu's spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
A Verizon spokesman had no immediate comment.
New York City's Panel for Education Policy plans to vote on Wednesday on whether to let the city Department of Education allocate $120 million to Telesector Resources Group, which is part of Verizon, Liu said.
The full contract is estimated at $175 million, and could include other agencies, he said.
Spokesmen for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose state is one of the nine with striking Verizon workers, had no immediate comment.
Part of the New York City comptroller's job includes registering contracts and Liu said he did so in May. Liu did not say whether he could cancel that action or otherwise block the contract.
(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Padraic Cassidy and Jan Paschal)