The Chief
February 15, 2002

Cop Union Protests WEF Chart Change

By William Van Auken

The Police Department violated Police Officers' union contract when it ordered thousands of cops to spend their scheduled days off guarding the World Economic Forum in Manhattan from protesters, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has charged.

The largest police union has also accused the department of shortchanging officers on overtime compensation for the 12-hour tours they worked in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Millions in OT

The two grievances, filed with the NYPD's Office of Labor Relations, could cost the city millions of dollars in additional over-time expenses.

More than 4,000 cops were deployed to protect WEF functions and police demonstrations during the five-day conference of political and business leaders at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan.

"We'll look at the grievances and we'll give an adequate response," said Michael Collins. The department, he added, has a month to answer the union's charge.

The PBA's complaint is that the department announced the suspension of the duty chart - the schedule assigning cops' work days, regular days off and vacation days - without providing many officers with the 24 hours' advance notice required by the union's collective bargaining agreement.

"By their actions, the Department has shown a callous disregard for our members' personal lives - which, as you know only too well, have already been seriously disrupted in recent months because of real unforeseen emergencies," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch in a message to his 27,000 members.

The announcement of the chart suspension came in a "Finest Message" sent to all commands at approximately 1:35 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 29 and went into effect from the next day until Feb. 5.

Union officials said that the sudden cancellation of days off left many cops scrambling to make child-care arrangements and reschedule other activities.

In addition, many of those who had been scheduled to work were assigned to 12-hour tours of duty, which, counting the waits for relief, often turned into grueling 14-hour days.

Mr. Lynch said in an interview that the department had been forced to suspend the chart for a scheduled event for the first time in more than two decades because of deep-seated staffing problems.

"The department is facing a severe recruitment and retention crisis," he said. "They just did not have enough cops to cover the World Economic Forum and patrol the neighborhoods at the same time." The PBA president pointed to the retirement of resignation of 3,776 officers last year.

"This becomes a problem especially now when our members have spent so much time out there recently because of the World Trade Center," said Mr. Lynch. "You can't dip into that well as often as you like."

The PBA grievance cites a section of the union's 1995-2000 collective-bargaining agreement which limits the department's right to reschedule days off and/or tours of duty to 10 occasions for each officer per year, with the officers given at least 24 hours' notice.

NYPD Prerogative?

In the past, the NYPD has maintained that there is no restriction on its right to suspend the chart. The police union, however, points to a 1980 arbitrator's ruling on a union grievance over the suspension of the chart for a visit to New York by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The arbitrator found that "if the larger manpower requirements of so many other occasions could be met without suspension of the chart, one cannot find suspension of the chart in this case necessary of justified."

Similarly, the PBA contends, the department could have rescheduled officers' tours of duty with 24 hours notice, given that the department knew well in advance that it would require additional patrols for the WEF events.

Want Time and a Half

The grievance demands that the department pay time-and-a-half overtime compensation to all officers who were rescheduled without 24 hours notice. For those who received adequate notice, the union contends, the rescheduled tours should count toward the 10 allowed per year under the PBA contract.

The second grievance filed by the union deals with the suspension of the chart after Sept. 11 - an action that the PBA readily acknowledges was justified and necessary.

It argues that while cops regularly work eight-hour and 35-minute tours, they are entitled to overtime after eight hours at times when the chart has been suspended. The PBA negotiated the longer working day in 1978 in return for 18 optional "chart days" that cops could take off.

"With the suspension of the chart, the (contract) requires the computation of overtime based on a 40-hour week, regardless of the duty chart to which officers were assigned prior to the suspension," the grievance states.

Praise from Kelly

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, meanwhile, praised cops for keeping the peace during the demonstrations outside the WEF meetings in Manhattan

"For the last five days, the eyes of the world have been on New York City and the men and women of this department," said Mr. Kelly at a 1 Police Plaza news briefing Feb. 4. "I am proud to say that they made their city proud"

The Commission said that there had been 201 arrests and only one minor act of vandalism. He acknowledged that the massive police deployment would cost "several million" in overtime, but called it "money well spent."