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NEW YORK CITY — New York City must immediately pay half of $900 million in back pay to thousands of city teachers, an independent arbitrator ruled Friday.

The arbitrator said the city must pay half of what is owed now and the other half within the next fiscal year. The decision also mandates that the city make a “no-layoff pledge” to United Federation of Teachers members for the rest of the current school year. It also safeguards educators’ 3% wage increase in May of 2021.

“This is far from a perfect solution for thousands of our members who are still owed deferred wages that can go back as far as ten years,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a statement. “The decision recognizes the city’s difficult financial circumstances because of the coronavirus pandemic, but makes it clear that the city must find a way to meet its financial obligations to its educators.”

Mulgrew added: “In addition, with teachers facing layoffs around New York State and the rest of the nation because of the pandemic’s damage to the economy, we were able to convince the arbitrator to add a no-layoff pledge and a guarantee that the teachers’ next contractual raise – a 3% increase set for May – will not be challenged by the city.”

The money dates back to a settlement after teachers were unfairly paid less than other public employees during the recession in 2009 and 2010.

The balance of the $900 million back pay to an estimated 90,000 active and retired teachers must be paid off by July of 2021.

In a statement to PIX11 News earlier Friday, City Hall spokesperson Bill Neidhardt explained the lack of payment.

“This action is necessary to avoid painful layoffs, but make no mistake, New York City recognizes our teachers go above and beyond for our students and schools every day,” he said.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson spoke in support of the decision.

“The arbitrator’s decision recognizes the financial constraints the city is facing while protecting staff from layoffs and ensuring educators get the back pay they are entitled to,” Johnson said in a statement. “These are really difficult times for our city, and I thank the UFT for fighting for our school communities.”