- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is set to announce a new set of labor agreements for construction work on city-owned buildings that will increase the number of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

City officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York will pertain to $8 billion of construction projects through 2018 and will take unprecedented steps to direct business to minority- and women-owned businesses, which currently account for only 4 percent of all city business.

“This agreement will help ensure that the city’s investments will create a pathway to prosperity for our diverse workers and business owners who help build this city,” said Maya Wiley, the mayor’s legal counsel.

De Blasio will make the announcement publicly on Thursday.

The contracts will go through the standard bidding process, and all of the work must be done by union outfits. Officials estimate the city will save $347 million through 2018.

Work is needed at scores of aging city buildings, many of which have decaying roofs and infrastructure in desperate need of repair. Currently, both City Hall and Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence, are undergoing renovation work.

The agreement also guarantees that 55 percent of new apprenticeship slots be filled by graduates of New York City public high schools.

“These projects have employed tens of thousands of workers who are paid prevailing wages with benefits,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, “and have also created thousands of opportunities for local residents from diverse backgrounds to enter apprenticeship training programs where they acquire the skills necessary to compete for middle class careers.”

The deal comes at a time when de Blaiso, who has strong relations with much of the city’s labor world, is in an unfamiliar position of criticism by union workers on part of his sweeping affordable housing plan.

De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are currently in a standoff over the mayor’s push to change a tax break for developers so that the incentive would require more affordable housing.

Cuomo has won support from the union by saying the change should pay laborers a “prevailing wage,” but city officials have suggested those raises would be too costly.

Aides to de Blasio said the agreement with the Building and Trades Council has been in the works since well before this dispute over the tax break. And they stressed that the de Blasio administration previously increased spending to minority- and women-owned businesses by 59 percent in the last fiscal year.

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