Despite denials from the New York department of sanitation, accusations of purposeful sabotage in the city's clean-up of the day-after-Christmas blizzard continue to fly. On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the city's response "unacceptable" pledged to pursue a criminal investigation after workers accused union leaders of trying to slow the snow removal.
Dan Halloran, a city councilman, says he was approached by a number of city employees unhappy with the so-called "go-slow" protest mounted by some of their colleagues. According to Halloran, the workers claimed that some managers who had been demoted to save money wanted to "send a message" to Mayor Bloomberg. In retaliation for city budget cuts, sanitation workers deliberately slowed the snow clean-up efforts, raising their plows to avoid cleaning snow-filled streets and skipping who areas on their routes.
The Guardian reports:
"These supervisors gave ploughers the green light to not tackle the storm aggressively," Mr Halloran told The Daily Telegraph. "They were told 'take your time and don't rush'.
"They were not going to let the Bloomberg administration get the benefit of their hard work after hundreds of supervisors lost their jobs and 100 were reduced in rank and had their salaries cut."
Cuts were made to the department as part of Mr Bloomberg's attempt to reduce the city's $2 billion (£1.2 billion) budget deficit. About 10,000 city workers are expected to be sacked over the next 18 months.
The "whistleblowers" -- three sanitation workers and two supervisors -- also expressed anger over the fact that some of their homes remained snowed in. "If they missed a street, don't worry about it. It would be okay because no one would be on top of them," Halloran said.
Despite Halloran's allegations, the sanitation department continues to deny that there were any "organized or wildcat actions being taken" by workers or supervisors. But questions remain, including why the city did not step up snow-removal enforcement until Sunday morning. "The proof is in the pudding," he said. "The storm last year had a higher snowfall accumulation and we had no idea it was coming. Within 24 hours, all of the primary and secondary streets were cleaned up."
On Thursday, the New York Times' Paul Krugman labelled the situation "Bloomberg's Katrina" and the New York Post labeled the sanitation department's union workers as "abominable snowmen."
Though Mayor Bloomberg initially stood by the city's response, he admitted Thursday that he did not know whether such an organized effort to slow down the snow removal process existed. "We're going to do an investigation to make sure that it didn't happen," Bloomberg said. "It would be an outrage if it took place, but I just don't know."
While the workers allegedly protested budget cuts, The Washington Examiners' J.P. Freire notes that the city's sanitation workers are pretty well-compensated:
...[T]he top salary of $66,672 is only the tip of the iceberg for active sanitation worker compensation because it excludes other things like overtime and extra pay for certain assignments. For example, one worker in 2009 had a salary of $55,639 but actually earned $79,937 for the year.
Sanitation workers don't pay a dime for premiums on their cadillac health care plan, which includes prescription drug coverage along with dental and eye care for the whole family. Many continue to receive the full benefit upon retiring after only 10 years. And then there's the matter of their pension:
...Nearly 180 retired [sanitation workers] make over $66,000 year -- in other words, over and above the maximum salary of currently working employees. In fact, 20 retirees make upwards of $90,000 in retirement, up to $132,360.
Keep that in mind when reading lines like this:
...[M]ultiple Sanitation Department sources told The Post yesterday that angry plow drivers have only been clearing streets assigned to them even if that means they have to drive through snowed-in roads with their plows raised.
And they are keeping their plow blades unusually high, making it necessary for them to have to run extra passes, adding time and extra pay.
One mechanic said some drivers are purposely smashing plows and salt spreaders to further stall the cleanup effort.