NYC sues teachers' union over disciplinary delay

NEW YORK, Sept 27 (Reuters) - New York City has sued its teachers' union for allegedly stonewalling disciplinary proceedings, leading to a backlog of 400 cases, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in state court, claims that the United Federation of Teachers violated a 2010 agreement with the city to establish a panel of 39 arbitrators to hear allegations of misconduct and incompetence.

The suit, which seeks to force the UFT to complete a selection of arbitrators, said that by failing to agree to a full panel, the union "grossly delays" the process and "causes an untenable backlog of charged personnel, awaiting hearings - for months on end - during which time they are entitled to full salary and benefits."

"The UFT promised to do this, they made an agreement and they just keep reneging and refuse to do it," Bloomberg said during a regular weekly radio address.

The lawsuit comes as Bloomberg prepares to hand over the reins of the city after 12 years to a successor, following November's mayoral elections.

The next mayor, either Democrat Bill de Blasio or Republican Joe Lhota, will step into the middle of an organized labor predicament: Every contract covering New York City's public employees expired under Bloomberg's watch.

The city could be saddled with a bill for as much as $7 billion if it has to pay retroactive wage increases, according to the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission.

The UFT is the single largest public union in the city, representing about 120,000 teachers and other personnel, the CBC said.

That's about 40 percent of the city's entire workforce. The teachers' last contract expired in 2009. A separate contract for principals expired in 2010, the CBC said.

In response to the city's lawsuit, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement on Friday that "the administration mismanages the disciplinary process, and in its last days tries to blame someone else for it."

"It's a shame the mayor is wasting public resources on this frivolous lawsuit, but we can all take comfort from the fact that Bloomberg will soon be only a bad memory to the people who care about schools," he said.