DETROIT

Dave Bing Threatens City Workers With State Takeover

11/23/2011 04:11 pm ET | Updated Nov 23, 2011

After canceling a scheduled meeting with City Council Wednesday, Mayor Dave Bing used strong language and threatened the possibility of a state takeover if Council and the city's labor unions refuse to go along with his proposed plan for Detroit's finances.

The Free Press reports:

If the unions refuse to budge, Bing said, only the appointment of en emergency manager by Gov. Rick Snyder, or a bankruptcy filing by the city, can forcibly change or void the contract provisions on pensions, work rules and health care benefits.

"If we can't get these structural changes, there is no way around a bankruptcy or an emergency manager," he said.

If city unions won't come to the table, it's up to Snyder to make the next move, Bing said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for City Council President Charles Pugh told HuffPost the mayor had canceled a meeting with the body. Council has suspended its holiday recess and had planned to meet Wednesday, but was also unable to secure a clerk for the meeting because the city is taking a furlough day.

Some Council members have suggested as many as 2,300 layoffs as a short-term solution to the city's cash flow problem. Council does not have the power to bargain with city workers.

Other Council members weremore adamant that the city focus on recovering $220 million in owed revenue sharing from the state of Michigan, something Bing had also proposed.

Gov. Snyder has not responded directly to the request, but said again Tuesday that time was running out for the city. Prior to Wednesday's comments, Bing had said he would not request a state review of the city's finances. But Snyder said Tuesday he may instigate one for the city anyway. A financial review is the first step toward appointing an emergency manager. (Bing has put himself up for the job, saying he would be open to it if Synder offered him the position.)

A recent audit by Ernst & Young found the city would run out of money to pay its bills in April, and faces a $44 million shortfall this year. Bing has requested significant concessions from the unions -- including police and fire -- including a 10 percent pay cut and an increase in health insurance copays.

AFSCME local 207, which represents 1,004 city workers, has been highly critical of the mayor's plan, though president John Riehl declined on Wednesday to speak to directly to the possibility of a state takeover. (An EM would have the power to abrogate the city workers' contract entirely.)

"The city is trying to wave the flag of financial criseis for a deficit of $45 million, where the city of Detroit regularly has had deficit issues of three, four, five times more than that," Riehl said.

He added the union has no interest in reopening its contract, which was bargained and signed last fall. When pressed on the emergency manager question, Riehl responded: "Remember this: it's always a conflict between labor and management and conflict doesn't end because of a regime change."

"Our workers will be here longer than the Mayor, longer than this governor and longer than an emergency manager," he continued, "and we will fight every moment."

UPDATE: 5:05 p.m. -- Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Snyder, implied Wednesday that Bing's and the Council's demands for the revenue sharing payment would not be met.

"The governor doesn't dwell on the past," Wurfel told HuffPost. "That was something that happened 13 years ago. He's focused on how to best help the city of Detroit move forward regardless of what past legislatures and past administrations have done."

Wurfel also said Gov. Snyder "doesn't view bankruptcy as an option" for Detroit.

Wurfel refused to give a concrete timeline for a decision from the governor on the emergency manager question, but she noted "the severity and urgency" of Detroit's fiscal situation "has escalated."

"[Gov. Snyder] wants to be able to avoid an emergency manager if at all possible," she added.

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