As time runs down on city labor contracts, Mayor Nutter plans to send legislation today to City Council that would change the city pension plan for new workers.

The proposed plan would combine a traditional pension - at a lower benefit rate than current employees receive - with a 401(k) plan into which workers pay.

Because today is the final Council session of the season, the bill could not receive final passage until fall. But if it were to pass, any workers hired after July 1 would be retroactively subject to the terms.

Finance Director Rob Dubow said that the plan would save the city $500 million over 30 years.

"This is a financial move to ensure the health of our pension fund," he said.

The legislation sent over today is needed to amend city law. But any change to worker pensions would also have to be approved by the city's four municipal unions, whose contracts expire June 30.

Union leaders yesterday scoffed at the pension changes.

"We're opposed to that because we want all our members to get the same terms," said Pete Matthews, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municiapl Employees, District Council 33, which represents the city's blue-collar workers.

Contracts for DC 33 and the white-collar workers in AFSCME DC 47 must be negotiated, while police and fire contracts are subject to arbitration.

So far, talks have been moving slowly. DC 47 and DC 33 are set to rally today in JFK Plaza, across from City Hall.

Managing Director Camille Barnett is working on strike-contingency plans, in case the non-uniform workers hit the pavement.

She stressed that the city makes strike plans every time the contracts are set to expire.

Barnett added that the city, which has been hammered by the economic crisis, cannot afford the current contract terms.

"Our job is to get contracts with our workforce that are fair to the workforce and fair to the citizens," Barnett said. "The simple truth is we cannot afford the status quo."

In his five-year financial plan, Nutter banks on getting $125 million in savings from the union contracts over the next five years. *