The Chief
September 20, 2002

PBA Says City Got Cold Feet On 17.5% Deal

Productivity Pact Had Longer Shifts But No Extra Days

By Richard Steier

A spokesman for Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said Sept 13 that in the union’s recently completed arbitration case, the city’s representative on the panel at one point discussed a 30-month contract providing 17.5 percent in raises, then backed away from the proposal.

PBA spokesman Al O’Leary said the proposal would have required Police Officers to work extended shifts but would not have compelled them to work 10 extra tours to receive pay raises exceeding those granted to other uniformed employees. The arbitration panel had weighed a 24-month contract worth 15 percent in pay raises and related differentials, then scrapped the idea when cops loudly protested the increase in tours that would have helped cover the cost.

Some 12-Hour Shifts

One person familiar with the deliberations said that the extended tour proposal would have required Police Officers to work 12-hour tours on 20 different days. The length of their shifts on other workdays would have been reduced, however, by 20 minutes from the current 8-hour, 35-minute standard. The change would have offered the Police Department greater flexibility in deploying personnel so it could maximize availability during high-crime hours or to handle special events.

Gary Dellaverson, the city’s representative on the arbitration panel, said flatly, “That’s incorrect,” when asked about Mr. O’Leary’s claim that he had considered a 30-month deal on those terms before having second thoughts, Mr. Dellaverson declined further comment, citing the confidential nature of the discussions among the arbitrators.

The controversial decision from a panel operating under the auspices of the Public Employment Relations Board was finally released last week, but in some ways it only added to the confusion that surrounded its earlier disclosure. The decision, written by the panel’s chairman, Dana E. Eischen, was also approved by the PBA’s designated arbitrator, but Mr. Dellaverson indicated that a dissenting opinion would be issued.

Didn’t Close Gap

The arbitrators’ award grants PBA members’ two 5-percent raises over two years, and orders that an additional 1.5 percent be used for unit-bargaining purposes, which can cover any economic area except maximum salary.

While PBA officials were disappointed that the award did not come close to bridging the wide pay gap that exists between their members and officers in neighboring jurisdictions, city officials were incensed that it slightly exceeded the cost of the deal reached last year by the Giuliani administration with the Uniformed Forces Coalition.

The UFC deal provided identical pay increases and boosts in unit-bargaining money, bit over a 30-month period, and with the unit-bargaining increase taking effect three months later than it will under the PBA deal. Mr. Eischen noted in his ruling that the city estimated that it would save 2.46 percent of the cost of those increases by virtue of the extra six-month duration of the IFC contract.

That advantage did not necessarily leave cops happy, according the both Mr. O’Leary and the PBA’s bargaining counsel, Robert W. Linn.

‘Not Worth Their Risks’

“It clearly doesn’t compensate them for the job that they do and the risks that they take,” Mr. O’Leary said.

Mr. Linn, who had sought a raise of about twice the amount that was granted to address the disparity in salaries for cops here compared with even urban police forces such as in Newark, said, “This did not represent a sufficient increase. On the other hand, I think it was an important first step that exceeds the uniformed pattern and begins to address the market issues that the city must address.

Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley offered a different view. “It’s hardly historic,” he said. “Yes, they tweaked the pattern.” But he added that unions representing Teachers, Sergeants and Nurses made similar gains beyond bargaining patterns more than a decade ago “and in the grand scheme of things it had very little impact.”

Several labor relations professionals, all of them speaking on condition that they not be identified, questioned the reasoning cited to give the PBA slightly better terms than the uniformed coalition. A typical comment came from one who said that Mr. Eischen “made a conclusion about what the award should be and then tried to back into it.”

‘Took Pains to Justify’

Mr. O’Leary also acknowledged the award contained contradictions, remarking, “Clearly it was a tortured decision that the arbitrator did not make lightly and took pains to justify.”

Mr. Eischen did not respond to a request to explain some of the elements of his ruling.

There are at least a couple of factual errors that played a role in Mr. Eischen’s conclusions, however.

In deciding to make the unit-bargaining money payable three months sooner than for other uniformed unions, he cited a recruitment problem in the NYPD that led him to conclude that the city would “not generate sufficient candidates to fill the class of 1,800-2,000 recruits it was seeking as of the Panel’s last hearing day on May 7, 2002.” In fact, there were 1,978 recruits who reported for induction into the Police Academy on July 2, more than two months prior to Mr. Eischen’s issuance of the decision.

Underestimated Power

He also stated in his decision that he believed the unit-bargaining money should be allocated with a particular eye to compensation improvements for newer hires, but, “We cannot mandate that the Parties mutually agree to spend those additional monies on ways and means specifically targeted to alleviate the expanding recruitment crisis…” In fact, the panel had the statutory authority to compel the PBA and the city to use the money for that purpose.

The decision makes clear why Mr. Eishen opted to grant the second 5-percent increase even though the shorter duration of the contract makes it likely that the PBA will be able to translate it into a long-term gain over other uniformed unions with its next wage package. Had he abided by the city’s request that the second-year increase be just 4 percent to even out the cost disparity with the UFC deal, Mr. Eischen noted, it would have put the PBA at a disadvantage with the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association and potentially ended the parity between the two forces on maximum salary that has existed for more than a century.

Saw UFA Reversal

That conclusion is based on the expectation that had the PBA gotten a raise of just 4 percent, the UFA, which was part of the uniformed coalition but did not send its deal to either its delegates or the rank and file because of a change in attitude prompted by last Sept 11, could have reconsidered and opted to take the UFC package.

Mr. Eischen said that he feared “that would produce the unacceptable result of unfair and unreasonable disparity between the compensation paid to NYPD Police Officers and NYFD Firefighters for time spent working shoulder-to-shoulder performing the same search, rescue and recovery duties in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster.”

Not accounted for in that conclusion, however, is the fact that his ruling gives a slight advantage on compensation to Police Officers over NYPD Lieutenants and Captains and fire officers covered by the coalition deal who performed those same duties in the wake of the Trade Center devastation.

Even his decision to accelerate payment of the unit-bargaining money to help deal with the recruitment problem offered something of a paradox. Mr. Eischen justified it by saying that the PBA had demonstrated there was “a recruitment and retention crisis in the NYPD which, if left unaddressed, will negatively impact public safety.” But that crisis was at the heart of the PBA’s call for a “market adjustment” increase in salaries of nearly 22 percent, which Mr. Eischen rejected by citing the city’s fiscal problem and stating, “…this would be an absolutely inappropriate time for this Panel to blaze trails into new and unexplored areas of collective bargaining for the parties.”

Mr. O’Leary said that the PBA, which under previous administrations became known for shortchanging prospective cops to improve compensation for more senior personnel, had made no decisions yet about how it wanted the unit-bargaining money distributed. He said that preliminary discussions had focused on matters like annuity fund increases and longevity differentials, which have their greatest value for more senior officers.

Didn’t Buy PERB Myth

He also said that while “previous administrations at the PBA oversold PERB as a panacea,” Mr. Lynch had not been expecting miracles from the arbitration, although he believed “if the city was not struggling with the fiscal pain from Sept. 11, the decision would have been different.

“We went in,” Mr. O’Leary continued, “understanding that PERB doing something extraordinary was unlikely given the current city fiscal climate. On the other hand, we went in believing that God was on our side. It may be that the city has to look at using a dedicated tax to help raise salaries. We’re convinced New Yorkers are prepared to ante up when it means keeping the city safe and the quality of life high.”

Although maximum salary for Police Officers will increase by about $5,000, to $54,048, Mr. O’Leary said this would not be sufficient to stem an exodus that led 931 of the union’s members to resign from the force in the first eight months of this year. He noted that his own son was among more than 100 cops who recently quit the NYPD to join the Port Authority Police Department, which has a maximum salary of slightly over $70,000.

Notwithstanding the prestige of being one of “New York’s Finest,” Mr. O’Leary said, when the typical cop is offered the opportunity to increase his pay by that much, “Hands down, the Port Authority wins.”