The Chief
October 19, 2001

Green Could Ax Pattern to Get Fire, Cop Pacts

Cites Librarians' Deal As Uniforms Give Endorsements

By WILLIAM VAN AUKEN

Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Green said Oct. 26 he would consider going above the pattern set in the current round of municipal collective bargaining in order to settle contracts with Police Officers and Firefighters.

The Public Advocate signaled the possible break with the bargaining strategy set by the Giuliani administration while appearing on the steps of City Hall with officers of police, fire and other uniformed service employee unions who endorsed his candidacy.

Met With PBA Leader

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick J. Lynch, who was attending a Police Officer's funeral, was absent from the endorsement ceremony.  But afterwards, the Democratic candidate went to the police union's Fulton St. headquarters, a Green campaign spokesman said.

There, Mr. Lynch and the union's chief negotiator, Robert W. Linn, who served as the city's Labor Relations Director in the Koch administration, laid out the PBA's case for a "market adjustment" to cops' salaries.

"There is a serious argument to pattern bargaining, but there is an economic argument to giving some union members more or else you might lose those members to jurisdictions which are paying far more than we are paying," Mr. Green said at City Hall.

Librarian Precedent

While the Democratic candidate said it would be "improper" for him to make promises about police and fire contracts while campaigning for office, he pointed to the pact reached by the New York Public Library giving its Librarians an 8-percent "catch-up" raise on top of the 8-per cent pay hike over two years that all members of District Council 37 received under a contract ratified in May.

"We broke it when we paid our Librarians extra because they so trailed other municipal workers as compared to other jurisdictions," Mr. Green said.  "I would want the burden on those who would want to break it, but if it happened in this case.I would consider it in other cases as well.

The PBA has argued that its members need a raise that is substantially higher than the municipal pattern to bring Police Officer salaries to a level comparable to what is paid in outlying jurisdictions.  As an example of the wage gap, it has repeatedly pointed to Newark, N.J. stating that city cops would need a 39-percent salary hike to bring their hourly rate up to what is paid their counterparts there.

Talks in Mediation

The police union has sought impasse arbitration of its contract by the state Public Employment Relations Board.  It is presently participating with the city in mediation at PERB, while the city continues its legal challenge to the state board's jurisdiction.  The state Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month and will then render the final decision on the constitutionality of the state law passed in 1998 placing police and fire contracts under PERB jurisdiction.

After a sometimes-rocky relation with Mr. Green, who was a prominent critic of the NYPD for what he charged was failure to adequately discipline cops convicted administratively of abusing civilians, the PBA endorsed the Public Advocate in the Democratic primary run-off against Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer earlier this month.

"We used the meeting with Mark Green to reiterate the importance of keeping our qualified Police Officers on the job and the crisis the city is facing in terms of recruitment and retention," said Mr. Lynch.  "We put facts and figures on the table that make it clear that low pay is the reason our members are leaving."

New Mayor, New Deal?

The PBA president said that the union would pursue its case before PERB, but held out the prospect that it may be able to negotiate an acceptable agreement with the next administration if Mr. Green is elected in November.

"We're hoping that the next Mayor will realize that this is a problem that has to be fixed," said Mr. Lynch.  "We have an open door and we'll see where it goes."

The leadership of the Uniformed Firefighters" Association, meanwhile, has indicated that it will recommend that its membership reject a tentative agreement that it reach as part of the Uniformed Forces Coalition providing wage increases totaling 10 percent over 30 months.

While the UFA executive board had previously endorsed the deal, the agreement has faced stiff rank-and-file opposition in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack.  Union officials now say they will urge members to vote it down at the next UFA meeting Nov. 8.

Like the PBA, the UFA endorsed Mr. Green in the run-off.  Announcing its endorsement of the Public Advocate for the general election, union vice president Michael A. Carter sounded a similar theme to Mr. Lynch's.

The UFA will seek to work with a Green administration "to find innovative ways, through collective bargaining, to compensate our Firefighters for the new hazards they now face, and find ways to retain our most senior and experienced Firefighters," said Mr. Carter.

Calling his members "soldiers on the front line of a new war," the UFA official acknowledged that the union is "going through some very hard times," as it continues to come to grips with the loss of its members in the attack on the World Trade Center.