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NYC grants unlimited leave for city workers sickened at Ground Zero

The deal with the city's largest municipal labor union is similar to a program already in place for police officers and firefighters who became ill after working at World Trade Center site after attacks.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to reporters at City Hall in Manhattan on Thursday, March 1, 2018.  Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York City will grant unlimited sick leave to about 2,000 medics, laborers, engineers and other municipal workers who contracted illnesses from working at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the mayor’s office.

Tuesday’s deal with labor union leaders extends the sort of program already in place for cops and firefighters who also got sick while helping to conduct rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts at the site 17 years ago, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio's chief spokesman, Eric Phillips.

The extended program is retroactive — time taken since to deal with a “certified 9/11-related illness will be restored,” de Blasio’s office said. It applies to current workers.

In a statement, de Blasio said he is happy to be able to provide “unlimited sick leave our brave city workers deserve.” 

The agreement with District Council 37,  the city’s largest municipal worker labor union, is expected to serve as the foundation for additional agreements with other unions, de Blasio said.

The bureaucratic procedures are similar to those set up for cops and firefighters.

An emergency medical technician must obtain a certification from an FDNY doctor — akin to the requirement for 9/11-stricken firefighters — and other workers can be certified from the WTC Health Program’s Clinical Centers of Excellence.

Eligible workers don’t need to exhaust existing leave balances before accessing the unlimited 9/11 time, the mayor’s office said.

Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, said the agreement covers employees “who sacrificed profoundly to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero,” granting them “the sick leave they need and deserve.”

De Blasio spokesman Raul Contreras estimated the program would cost tens of millions of dollars over the next 15 years.

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