The Chief
July 8, 2005

PBA’s 10% Hike Offset by Wage Cut for Unborn

Reduced Pay Scale To Cost Jan. ’06 Cops $48G

By Reuven Blau

In awarding a 10-percent retroactive raise over two years to city Police Officers, an arbitration panel reduced the cost to the city by sharply decreasing the starting salary for new cops.

The much-anticipated award, which takes the concept of “selling the unborn” to a new extreme, was issued June 28 after two contentious years of negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association failed to produce results.

PERB: Cops Underpaid

Eric J. Schmertz, the chairman of the three-member Public Employment Relations Board panel, concluded that city cops are underpaid compared to officers employed by the Port Authority and Nassau and Suffolk counties. But Mr. Schmertz maintained that despite the city’s $3.3-billion surplus, the raise should be partially funded by union concessions.

The settlement is likely to set a pattern for the city’s uniformed workers, whose unions had put off their contract negotiations pending the award.

Under the unanimous three-person decision, which runs through July 31, 2004, officers receive a 5-percent hike retroactive to Aug. 1, 2002, and another 5-percent hike retroactive to Aug. 1, 2003. Many of the 22,000 incumbent cops will receive more than $13,000 in back pay.

The PBA signed off on reducing the starting base pay of new officers from $36,878 to $25,100 for the first six months on the job in order to obtain more money for current members. New recruits in the July 11 class will be covered under the old salary structure and will make $40, 658 their first year on the job.

New Salary Scale

Future hires, however, must work for 2 ½ years before reaching $38,000, slightly more than the previous starting salary. They jump from $44,100 after 4 ½ years in service to the maximum pay rate of $59,588 after 5 ½ on the job. In the past, officers reached the old $54,048 maximum salary after five years. The changes in the rate and the amounts by which officers progress to top pay will cost those hired next January $48,000 over their first six years on the job compared to those hired as part of next week’s class.

The PERB award also eliminated officers’ one annual personal day, accured after June 30, 2004. In addition, the settlement increased from 10 to 15 a year the number of work shifts which the department can change with proper notice without having to pay officers the overtime rate.

That change will help the NYPD reduce its burgeoning overtime costs, as the city has been routinely forced to adjust schedules to staff special public events such as parades and various rallies.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch called the PERB decision “a step in the right direction,” but contended that reduced starting salary would cripple the department’s ability to recruit qualified candidates.

City: PBA’s Choice

“The PBA chose to take the lower salaries for new members for the first five years, and to give the raises to the people who have been in the union for a longer period of time,” Mayor Bloomberg countered at a late-night press conference June 28 announcing the fiscal year 2006 budget agreement.

“Bloomberg’s lying,” retorted PBA spokesman Al O’Leary. “This is not a negotiated settlement, we didn’t want this for the unborn, and this wasn’t by choice.”

Both sides agree, however, that the lower starting salary may create problems. Asked whether the city would be able to continue to hire roughly 3,000 officers a year under the new pay rate, Mr. Bloomberg responded, “We are going to find out. But whether we can or we can’t, that is the way the arbitrator ruled.”

Mr. Bloomberg had insisted that unless the PBA agrees to changes in working conditions that would yield enough savings to fund bigger raises, the city could not afford to pay cops more than what it has given civilian unions: a $1,000 first-year bonus rather than a pay hike, a 3-percent raise in the second year of a contract, and a 2-percent increase in the third year that had half its cost covered by give-backs affecting future hires.

The Bloomberg administration asserted last week that the PERB decision is consistent with that pattern set by DC 37, the city’s largest municipal union, which represents 121,000 civilian workers in various titles.

According to the city, 5.5 percent of the PBA raises will be funded by the saving generated from the give-backs over the upcoming 11-year period. Any costs that exceed those the city absorbed under its deals with civilian unions, Mr. Bloomberg said, are consistent with past city policy of paying uniformed workers slightly more.

Award Costs $490M

The award will cost the city $490 million over three years, according to reports from independent budget monitors. The city has created an $800 million labor reserve fund to pay for the projected contracts for the other uniformed workers, which will likely be modeled after the PBA award, Mr. Bloomberg said.

As state law requires, Mr. Schmertz based his decision on four factors: comparisons with other similar agencies, the city’s ability to pay, job hazards and required skills, and bargaining history.

The PERB chair noted that 12 of the next 20-largest cities in the nation have higher maximum salaries. Those areas he said also have a lower cost-of-living and officers assigned there have “[fewer] responsibilities and less stress.”

New Hires Reduced

But rookies in the Police Academy, Mr. Schmertz noted, are not subjected to those on-the-job dangers, and therefore deserve less compensation.

Notably, Mr. Schmertz’s 35-page decision said that if granted the power he would have awarded cops a 20-percent increase over a four-year period. “Such an agreement would have, in my view, resulted in a full, fair and mutually beneficial agreement,” he stated.

Based on Taylor Law, however, the panel can only impose a settlement for a two-year period; the terms for a longer deal must be consented to by both sides. The PBA insisted in a two-year award, asserting that it didn’t want to get tied into a long-term deal should the city’s financial situation continue to improve over the next few years.

Mr. Schmertz, a veteran mediator and arbitrator who was one of the city Board of Collective Bargaining, called the two-year restriction “illogical and counterproductive,” and pointed out that the adversarial parties will immediately be back at the bargaining table trying to negotiate a new contract.

‘Premier Force’

Martin Morales, the NYPD’s commanding officer for recruitment, maintained that the department could still garner enough candidates, despite the lower starting salary and elongated pay scale. “We have to see what the future holds,” he remarked in a June 29 phone interview. “Yes, there is concern. But I think the NYPD is still a big draw. We are the premier law-enforcement agency in the nation.”

He added, “We have a positive outlook. We never really discuss salary; we always really push the other intangibles.”

The PBA had hoped that the PERB award would mirror the recent agreement the state Troopers Benevolent Association negotiated with the Pataki administration.

That deal provided 12.5 percent in raises over four years and a list of other benefit improvements for its veteran officers. The accord was the first major contract of the bargaining round that began in 2002 to include a first-year pay raise rather than a bonus. It also featured major boosts in longevity bonuses and an “expanded duty” differential of over $2,500. To reduce costs to the state, however, the raises and benefits only applied to Troopers at the Trainee II rate and higher until the last year of the contract.

Police Pay Rates

The chart below compares the salary levels for Police Officers under the old five-step experience scale, which brought them to maximum salary after five years on the job with the 5 1/2 –year scale established by an arbitration panel for future police hires. The reduced pay levels for new cops helped finance the two five-percent pay increases that raised maximum salary to $59,588.

Under the old schedule, cops advanced on the salary scale every year until they reached maximum pay. The new schedule establishes a split rate for officers’ first year of service, paying them more for the second six months, when they are on the streets, than for their time at the Police Academy. They move up the scale on their half-year anniversaries after that until reaching top pay after 5 ½ years on the job.

It should be noted that the new police class that will enter the academy next week is expected to be covered by the old pay scale rather than the new, reduced schedule. Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley, with the approval of Mayor Bloomberg, has written a letter to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly stating that because many of the inductees had quit other jobs based partly on assurances of a pay scale consistent with that was previously in effort, they should be exempted from the reductions.

 

Current Officers

Future Officers

Starting Pay

$40,658

$25,100

After 6 mos.

 

$32,700

After 1 year    

$42,648

 

After 1 ½ years

 

$34,000

After 2 years

$44,145

 

After 2 ½ years

 

$38,000

After 3 years

$46,240

 

After 3 ½ years

 

$41,500

After 4 years

$47,527

 

After 4 ½ years

 

$44,100

After 5 years

$59,588

 

After 5 ½ years

 

$59,588