The Chief
March 19, 2004

Contract Talks At An Impasse, PBA Asserts

By Mark Daly

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has petitioned the Public Employment Relations Board to declare an impasse in its contract talks with the city.

The move was prompted by the city’s insistence that the union pay for officers’ raises by agreeing to productivity concessions, said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch.

Frozen Out of Raise

By refusing to consider an across-the-board raise or a bonus, “they’re still below zero” in wage talks, Mr. Lynch said. “They’re looking for productivity, when there’s never been a more productive police force in the history of the city.”

Just as it did in its last round of bargaining, the PBA is arguing that its officers deserve a double-digit percentage raise to match the higher salaries paid by the Port Authority and Long Island departments.

Reached for comment on the union’s move, Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley gave a characteristically brief reply: “The city’s response will be in PERB, not the press.”

The PBA’s March 8 filing is the first of several steps the union must take to have its case heard by an arbitration panel. If PERB agrees that talks are stalled, it will send a mediator to prod both sides along. If mediation fails, a three-member panel selected by the union and the city will hear presentations on the matters still in dispute and issue a binding award covering a two-year period.

Full Speed Ahead

The union’s last try at arbitration under PERB involved six months of hearings and deliberations by a tripartite panel. The process was preceded by a yearlong battle in the courts over the legality of the statute allowing the PBA to bring its disputes to the state board.

Since the state’s highest court upheld the law in that round, “We’re hoping we can go through this process as quickly as possible” this time, Mr. Lynch said.

The PBA’s 25,000 members haven’t received a general wage increase since August 2001, although that payment came much later, after the arbitration panel issued its award in September 2002.

That award gave Police Officers a 10-percent wage increase over a 24-month span. It was criticized by some of the union’s rank and file for going little beyond the 10-percent, 30-month pact negotiated by the Uniformed Forces Coalition. Mr. Lynch has argued that its shorter length placed his members ahead of the pack by giving them 1.5 percent in unit bargaining funds three months sooner than the other unions and making their next wage hike potentially effective six months sooner.

The union is in a better position to make gains in arbitration this time. Mr. Lynch insisted last week. Even though the city’s budget troubles have led to cutbacks in the department’s size, revenue from summonses is up and crime is still low. “We’re doing more work with 5,000 less police officers than we had a few short years ago,” he said.

Points to Turnover

To bolster its case for raising salaries, the PBA will point to the steady stream of officers who are fleeing the NYPD in mid-career for better-paying jobs elsewhere. According to the department’s own figures, 3,580 cops quit before reaching retirement eligibility between 2000 and last year, the union said.

The city’s bargaining stance may reflect a desire to even out the PBA’s contract grains to conform to the Uniformed Forces Coalition’s longer deal. If the city can save money through productivity gains or force the PBA to go a portion of the time without a raise, it will recoup the boost the union received under the earlier arbitration award. If the city is forced to provide a raise in the first year of the new deal, it will compound the cost of the previous boost, driving up the city’s expenses.