The Chief
September 13, 2002

No One Smiling Over Arbitration Award for PBA

24-Month Pact With 11.5% Raise Has Mayor Steamed

By Richard Steier

Based on their reactions to an arbitration panel’s award granting the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association 10-percent raises plus another 1.5 percent to address salary-related issues in a 24-month contract, it might be concluded that PBA President Patrick J. Lynch “won” the battle and Mayor Bloomberg suffered a stinging defeat.

The Mayor, who previously had taken the unusual step of disclosing the details of a tentative award by the three-member panel before it was finalized, shelved his usually bland public persona to question Mr. Lynch’s judgment after the revised award was disclosed.

‘Cops are POed’

Mr. Lynch, notwithstanding the fact that the award fell far short of the break through deal he had sought from the arbitrators, declared that it had broken the pattern of the contract negotiated by other uniformed union leaders and featured no givebacks.

But someone involved in the negotiations suggested neither side accomplished what it wanted to. “They’ve gotten a clearly pattern-breaking settlement that doesn’t make any body happy,” he said. “It’s going to cause the city trouble elsewhere and the cops are unbelievably p---ed off.”

The “trouble elsewhere” remark alluded to the fact that the award makes it virtually certain that the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association will be able to get similar terms under a 24-month deal, and it may also have that effect for the unions representing NYPD Sergeants and Detectives.

Added Tours Scrapped

The final award from the Public Employment Relations Board panel – which was approved by arbitration chairman Dana Eischen and PBA designee Ronald Dunn but not signed by city representative Gary Dellaverson – scrapped one earlier element that produced an outcry from rank-and-file cops once news of it leaked last month.

Under the earlier award, Police Officers would have received an additional pay raise of 4.5 percent in return for working 10 extra tours each year, even as their shifts were shortened by 20 minutes. One percent of the saving from their greater availability – which would have reduced the NYPD’s hiring needs by at least 1,000 officers – would have covered part of the cost of the second five-percent raise within a 24-month period that members of the Uniformed Forces Coalition got only by agreeing to a 30-month contract over a year ago.

In yielding to the wishes of PBA officials and taking the extra tours out of the award, the arbitrators reduced the potential pay raise by 3.5 percent, but essentially gave the cops an additional one-percent raise in the contract’s second year.

The Sept. 11 Factor

Under PERB’s rules, no contract award can exceed 24 months unless both sides consent. Once the PBA made clear its unhappiness with additional tours for its members, the arbitrators were left with the choice of either reducing the second-year wage hike to 4 percent to even out the cost of the award with that of the UFC contract, enraging the cops, or keeping the hike intact, creating problems for the cash-strapped city administration.

“The arbitrators must have realized,” one veteran of city government said, “that for the cops to get less than the other uniformed guys for 24 months would really seem inequitable after Sept. 11.”

This official speculated that Mr. Bloomberg’s testiness about the revised award owed more to his view of the workplace than to the problems it posed for both the city budget and still-unresolved bargaining with three other uniformed unions.

“Won’t’ Put in the Time’

“It may have truly ticked him off from his businessman’s perspective that [cops] want more money but they don’t want to do more work for it,” this official said.

But when Mr. Bloomberg declared at City Hall Sept. 4, “The PBA is going to get to the penny what Rudolph Giuliani offered them well over a year ago,” he was stretching the truth along the same lines that the UFC had stretched its contract’s length by six months to get the full 5-percent raise in the second year of that deal.

The 1.5-percent “unit bargaining” money under the PBA deal is payable retroactive to July 31, the last day of the contract. This means that Police Officers would have this money kick in three months earlier than other uniformed employees covered by the UFC deal, under which that payment took effect at the start of the 28th month of the 30-month contract. That carries an added cost to the city of slightly more than $7 million.

Added Liability

If the PBA were to get an additional pay raise in the first six months of its next contract, the extra liability for the city would grow, at the cost of nearly $20 million for each percentage point. Mr. Bloomberg downplayed the significance of this prospect by pointing out that there was no money in the budget for the next round of bargaining, implying the PBA would be unable to turn its advantage on contract length compared to most other uniformed unions into tangible gains for its members.

But several members of the uniformed coalition suggested it was unrealistic to believe that the PAB would have to settle for inferior terms to those given to other uniformed unions in the next round of bargaining to even out the costs between the contracts.

At the same time, those union leaders questioned whether Mr. Lynch had won a victory of real consequence for his 25,000 members, shorter duration or not.

‘Same Raise As Us’

“We both came out with 5, 5 and 1½,” said UFC Chairman Norman Seabrook, who is president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. “I think he did a tremendous job of fighting for his people; God bless him.

“But,” Mr. Seabrook continued, “I don’t think there’s any edge to it. What I call breaking pattern bargaining would be the DC 37 contract versus the uniformed forces, because we got more in our pockets than they did.” He was referring to the fact that the District Council 37 contract provided raises of just 4 percent a year, although its 27-month length slightly narrowed the gap between that deal’s value and that of the UFC agreement.

“The bottom line is, they’re getting the same salary increase as we are,” said NYPD Captains’ Endowment Association President John F. Driscoll.

Uniformed Fire Officers’ Association President Peter L. Gorman, however, said that the shorter contract deal was reason enough to conclude that the PBA had been able to “break parity” with the uniformed coalition. The full impact of doing so, he said, would be clearer once the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association, the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Endowment Association – which were members of the UFC but walked away from the contract it agreed to – concluded their contract talks.

Worth the Effort?

But Correction Captains’ Association head Peter D. Meringolo questioned whether what he characterized as a marginal gain had been worth the time and money spent by the PBA during the arbitration case.

“Our members received their money immediately,” he said, referring to the implementation of both 5-percent raises in Correction Captains’ paychecks a year ago. “You’re spending five or six or seven million dollars to get the last 1.5 percent three months earlier. Where’s the Suffolk County money? Where’s the Nassau County money?”

Actually, while cops have long cast envious eyes at the pay scales for their counterparts on Long Island, the PBA this year crafted its strategy on the argument that its members were vastly underpaid compared to cops in Newark, where a case could not be made that a stronger suburban tax base make better pay feasible. The arbitrators appear to have given that argument secondary weight, however, to those advanced by Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley about the need to consider the city’s ability to pay a settlement that significantly exceeded the IFC deal, and to honor previously set wage patterns in this bargaining round.

Similar to UFT Case

In that respect, they hewed to the course set by the arbitration panel whose recommendations provided the basis for a United Federation of Teachers contract. Although that panel credited the UFT’s arguments that Teachers were underpaid compared with neighboring jurisdictions, the only portion of its recommended award that exceeded the pattern set by DC 37 involved an extra wage hike that was tied to Teachers working longer days.

If some of his fellow labor leaders shared Mr. Lynch’s view that he had broken that pattern, some of his members clearly believed otherwise, even though union officials contended that the average annual value of the contract award was more than a point better than the UFC deal.

‘Teachers Got More’

One web site featured a message from a cop who compared the PBA award unfavorably with the 22-percent wage hike the UFT won for new Teachers with state certification, notwithstanding the latter deal’s 30½-month duration. “Parity was broken all right, but not for us,” this officer wrote.

Mr. Lynch, whose re-election hopes next June hang heavily on how members judge his contract efforts, may be able to assuage some of their anger through judicious use of the 1.5-percent “unit bargaining” funds, which can be used for anything except an additional increase in maximum salary.

How Others Used It

COBA used its share of the money to increase longevity benefits and to provide improvements in the salary and vacation schedules for less senior Correction Officers. The Correction Captains’ Association used it to both improve the salary schedule and reduce from six years to five the time in which its members progressed to maximum pay, as well as increasing annuity fund payments.

Lieutenants’ Benevolent Association President Tony Garvey said his “unit” money was split between improving longevity benefits and ensuring that members who came on the job after 1988 would receive the same Variable Supplements Fund payments once they retired as more senior NYPD personnel.

Significant improvements in health benefit coverage and a reduction in pension contributions that were negotiated during the Giuliani administration by the Municipal Labor Committee will now take effect for Police Officers, further sweetening the contract package for this bargaining round.

High Hopes Dashed

But expectations among Police Officers – who were still smarting over their previous contract resulting from a 1997 arbitration case that began with a two-year wage freeze – were running high from the time in late 1998 that the union won the right to take contract disputes to PERB rather than the city’s Board of Collective Bargaining.

Mr. Lynch, who was elected PBA president the following spring, subscribed to the same theory as several of his predecessors: that the union would do better at PERB because it gave greater weight to salaries in neighboring jurisdictions than did OCB, which put a premium on established city bargaining patterns, and because state arbitrators were less likely to be influenced by concerns about losing future business from the city if they ruled in the union’s favor.

Added Tension

From the outset of talks two years ago, Mr. Hanley was convinced that Mr. Lynch was eager to try his luck before PERB, a belief that intensified when in mid-stream he changed bargaining counsel and hired Robert W. Linn, a former Koch administration Labor Relations Director with whom Mr. Hanley had a frosty relationship.

“They never made any effort to bargain,” Mr. Hanley said last week.

PBA officials, in turn, accused Mr. Hanley of taking a particularly hard line in the arbitration to punish the union for going to PERB and to dissuade other police and fire unions from doing so in the future.

Mr. Gorman, the fire officers’ union president, suggested the city had affectively used such deterrents in the past when unions went to arbitration at the BCB. Perhaps the most notable case occurred during Mr. Linn’s tenure as head of the Office of Labor Relations, when he used the scope of bargaining process that begins arbitration to strip the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association of its contractual guarantee to minimum staffing levels on engine companies.

48-Hour Rule Gone

In the PBA arbitration, the scope process was used to eliminate the right of Police Officers under the “48-hour rule” to refrain from talking to NYPD investigators for two days after any incident for which they might face disciplinary action.

Mr. Driscoll of the NYPD Captains union said, “Everybody knows the risks of going to arbitration and having them scope non-mandatory subjects of bargaining” provided under the contract.

Mr. Gorman expressed a similar view in explaining why he is not inclined to change his future bargaining strategy even though he believes the PBA’s deal is slightly superior to what was won by the uniformed union coalition.

UFT President Randi Weingarten, asked about Mr. Lynch’s claim that the PBA had “broken the pattern,” said, “I think the whole round has represented a real change in pattern bargaining,” noting that the PBA award was the fourth substantive variation from the original patterns set by DC 37 17 months ago.

Concern Over Rivalries

She also expressed concern, however, about “this rivalry of ‘I beat you and therefore my settlement is better.’ If that sentiment continues, no one will want to reach a deal and the city will look to go back to lock-step pattern bargaining.”

Dennis Sullivan, who as chief negotiator for DC 37 made the deal that the UFT and the uniformed unions all sought to top, called the sour taste left by the PBA arbitration “an illustration that it’s better to negotiate a deal. This is an award that neither side is really happy with.”