The Chief
May 11, 2001

Mayor and PBA Debate Pay in Times Square

Billboard Hits Salary Inequities; Giuliani Cries for 'Unborn'

By William Van Auken

The Short End of the Money Pile: The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association took the claim that its memvers are vastly underpaid to Broadway last week, with a giant billboard highlighting how much less in hourly compensation city cops make than their counterparts in jurisdictions from Newark to Nassau County.

Mayor Giuliani and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association took their protracted dispute over police salaries to Times Square last week, ending up just as far apart in the street as the two sides have been at the bargaining table for more than seven months.

In a bit of public relations serendipity for the PBA, the Mayor appeared May 2 at a rededication of Father Duffy Square at Broadway and West 47th St. just before the police union was to unveil a new billboard at the same site. The 680-foot advertisement compares unfavorably the salaries of NYPD Police Officers to those paid to cops in several other major cities.

It's Money That Matters

The billboard's design has as its background the giant recruitment banner hanging from 1 Police Plaza. Printed over it is a bar graph made up of stacks of $20 bills showing city police salaries substantially lower than five other jurisdictions, including Newark, N.J. Above the piles of greenbacks is the slogan: 'No wonder NYC can't hire cops ..."

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, who showed up in the square about half an hour after the Mayor and his entourage had left, said that low salaries had created a "crisis situation" in cop recruitment and were responsible for a growing exodus of veteran officers reaching retirement age. 'We've fallen so far behind compared to other jurisdictions in the surrounding area that cops are leaving this job in droves," he said. Retirements were up last year by 74 percent, he said, and this year they are increasing at a rate of 174 percent.

Standing amid crowds of tourists lined up to purchase same-day discounted Broadway show tickets at a nearby kiosk, Mr. Lynch warned that without a hike in police salaries, the city's economic renaissance could face a return to the dark days of 'the '60s and early '70s when you called for the New York City

police and it took hours for a Police Officer to get there."

'Educating the Public'

Mr. Lynch said the billboard represented "an effort to help educate New York City people in how poorly paid York City Police Officers are."

Total cost for the billboard, which will remain in Times Square for one month, plus posters of the same design that are going up on bus shelters, is $73,000. Asked about the expenditure, the PBA president said it was a small amount compared to the $20 million the NYPD has spent in back-to-back recruitment campaigns that have failed to fill the Police Academy because of inadequate salaries.

With the billboard as a backdrop, the Mayor's press conference opened with a question on the PBA's salary claims.

"That's probably an entirely inaccurate comparison with a few exceptions," said Mr. Giuliani of the figures printed on the billboard. "New York City Police Officers, for example, after 10 years make more money than police officials in Chicago and in Los Angeles."

Lower salaries for newly hired officers in the city, he continued, was the result of the police union "selling the unborn." During previous rounds of bargaining, the PBA accepted lower pay for new hires as a means of funding increased longevity pay for those with five or more years of service.

"This completely misstates the benefits they get," said the Mayor.

Robert W. Linn: Mayor fudging the numbers.  

Not so according to the PBA's chief negotiator, Robert L. Linn. "This has nothing to do with sacrificing the unborn," said Mr. Linn, who served as the Director of Labor Relations for six years in the Koch administration.

The bar graph, he pointed out, compares not starting salaries, but average pay per hour figured out over the course of a 20 year career. The figure given includes not only base pay, but also longevity pay and shift differential as well as holiday and uniform pay, he said.

Hourly Differences

The billboard gives an hourly figure of $28.82 for NYPD cops, $32.34 for officers in Chicago, $35.01 in Los Angeles, $36.01 in Newark, $41.11 at the Port Authority, and $49.68 in Nassau County.

The union has frequently pointed out that its members receive at least 23 percent less per hour on average than their counterparts in Newark, a city with far less of a tax base to fund police salaries. Even factoring in pension and health-care costs, Mr. Linn said, there is still a 19.5-percent gap in average hourly police compensation between the two cities.

The union negotiator said that the Mayor's claim that NYPD cops pulled ahead of officers in other cities after their 10th year of service was also fallacious.

Taking average hourly compensation for officers in their 11th year of service, he said, the figure for the NYPD is $31.81; for Chicago, $34.16; Los Angeles, $37.89; Newark, $38.31; Port Authority, $44.61; and Nassau County, $56.26. The Chicago figure includes a salary increase offered earlier this year in a contract that was voted down by cops there.

The dispute between the Mayor and the union in Times Square came the day     after the city's Office of Labor Relations and the PBA sat down at the bargaining table for the first time this year.

The negotiations took place at the behest of Albany State Appellate Division Justice Anthony J. Carpinello, who on May 2 granted the city's motion for a preliminary injunction barring the PBA from seeking mediation by the Public Employment Relations Board.

Another bargaining session is scheduled May 10.