He went on to note that with rising health care costs and a tightening economy, the city is focusing on keeping its workers employed.
"In many communities, there are significant layoffs in the size of city workforces," said Johnson. "We're simply asking them to hold the line on wages."
Premo argued that the city's budget crisis stems directly from decisions made by the City Council on the budget, including not raising taxes this year. Now, he argued, DPW workers are being asked to pay for those mistakes.
"What they're trying to do is take a community problem and solve it by denying increases in pay to its employees," he said.
There are about 95 CSEA members working in the DPW, and about 100 others in City Hall. Contracts with the Police Benevolent Association and City Hall workers are also open.
Negotiations will now enter a fact-finding phase, in which an independent party will be assigned by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board to hear arguments from both sides.
According to Johnson, filing to enter fact finding is at the discretion of the union, and he hasn't heard anything yet.
With both sides away from the table and the fact-finding phase of negotiations not yet begun, one might wonder what the association hoped to accomplish by demonstrating.
"We hope to allow them to let off a little steam today and get our story out," said Premo. "Our members feel slighted by the city."
The gathered pickets mostly vented towards Johnson, with chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, the mayor's got to go" and "We'll remember in November."
Johnson said he's a proponent of fair contracts but also has a responsibility to factor in the impact on the taxpayer.
"I'm being portrayed as a union buster, and that simply isn't true," he said.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. David Paterson announced that $2.8 million in stimulus funds will go toward reconstructing a portion of Church Street. The grant will cover most of the project's cost, and construction is expected to begin this summer.""