Thursday 22 March 2018

New York snow: mayor to investigate 'go slow' allegations

Jon Swaine

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, has said he will order an investigation into allegations workers clearing piles of snow were told to "take their time" in revenge for public spending cuts.

Mr Bloomberg, a popular figure who prides himself on being an effective chief executive, has received a fierce backlash over his handling of the crisis, and has been forced to admit efforts to clear the snow had been inadequate.

Responding to allegations that Dan Halloran, a city councilman, had been approached by five city employees unhappy at the "go-slow" protest being mounted by some of their colleagues, Mr Bloomberg said: "It would be an outrage if it took place."

"I don't know whether anybody, you know, one person or two people, slowed down," he said. "Probably you'll never know. But the men I know who work for the Department of Sanitation take great pride in what they do. They work hard ... I would send them out in the next storm without thinking twice."

Earlier, David Paterson, the governor of New York, said an investigation should be launched, calling it a "very, very serious breach."

The workers, whose identities Mr Halloran would not disclose, claimed some managers who were demoted to save money wanted to "send a message" to Michael Bloomberg, the city's mayor.

"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 whistle-blowers – three "rank-and-file" sanitation workers and two supervisors seconded from the transportation department – were said to be angry as some of their own homes remain snowed in.

The sanitation department denied Mr Halloran's allegation. "There are no organised or wildcat actions being taken by the workers or the supervisors," a spokesman said. Unions also rejected the claims.

The dispute came amid widening recriminations over the fallout of the storm, which dumped almost two feet of snow across the state on Sunday. Some streets in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens remain unploughed, despite deaths due to emergency service delays.

It has emerged that his authorities were slow to implement emergency plans in response to the blizzard.

Transport authorities did not enter "full alert" mode until Sunday morning, when snow had begun falling, despite a rare "formal blizzard warning" being issued by the US weather service at 4pm on Saturday.

Mr Bloomberg himself did not appear publicly to stress the gravity of the situation and appeal for help from people with useful machinery until a full day after the warning was issued.

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