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Mayor plans veto of Council’s sick pay accord

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn celebrates a sick-payday deal struck last week. Photo courtesy William Alatriste/NYC City Council
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The paid sick leave deal struck last week by City Council members, business owners and union leaders was mostly well-received, with one notable exception.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would veto the plan requiring city employers with 20 or more workers to grant paid time off to employees when they get sick.

“While this compromise version of the bill is better than previous iterations, it will still hurt small businesses and stifle job creation,” Bloomberg said. “The bill is short-sighted economic policy that will take our city in the wrong direction, and I will veto it.”

The deal, which would go into effect April 2014, requires companies with at least 20 employees to give full-time workers five compensated sick days a year. The mandate will extend to businesses with 15 or more employees in October 2015.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said under the agreement, all New Yorkers will receive full protections that will allow them to take time to care for themselves and their families when ill, without fear or threat of losing their jobs.

“We have a good, strong and sensible piece of legislation that recognizes the needs of everyday New Yorkers and the realities that our struggling small businesses face,” Quinn said. “Throughout these negotiations I have always said that I was willing to listen and engage all sides. Because of deliberate, thoughtful and at times hard-nosed negotiations, we now have a piece of legislation that balances the interests of workers, small business owners and local mom-and-pop proprietors across this city.”

The bill also includes vital protections for the city’s economy, including a reverse trigger that will ensure the mandate is only enacted if the economy can sustain it. If the economy unexpectedly worsens, the bill will be delayed from taking effect until conditions improve.

But Bloomberg said he does not buy into that provision.

“Supporters claim it will only take effect if the economy is healthy, but there is never a good time to make New York City less competitive,” he said. “There are still far too many New Yorkers out of work, and it is crucial that we continue doing everything we can to allow businesses to grow.”

Advocates of paid sick leave have said that no worker should be at risk of losing a job because of illness. Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7 Bar and Café, at 40-19 Gleane St. in Elmhurst, said the deal creates a new ethical standard for workers’ rights.

“This victory protects workers from being fired for being sick,” he said. “It marks a milestone in the struggle of small business and workers working together to better our communities.”

Quinn, a candidate to replace Bloomberg, faced criticism for her opposition to paid sick leave, in particular from other mayoral candidates.

City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, another candidate for mayor, said the deal took too long to come together and it still leaves out many working New Yorkers.

“I commend the city Paid Sick Days Coalition for getting something done, despite Speaker Quinn’s long-standing resistance to providing working families this critical measure of economic security,” said de Blasio. “However, the final outcome leaves out over 300,000 New Yorkers and took far too long. No one should ever have to sacrifice pay just because they get sick. I intend to keep fighting for these New Yorkers left behind.”

Meanwhile, Queens elected officials were happy to celebrate what they believe is a victory for city workers.“Today is a historic moment for the city of New York,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “With the passage of this milestone legislation our city’s working families will no longer have to fear the loss of jobs for taking a sick day or caring for a loved one who is ill.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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