The Chief
November 11, 2005

City Confident About ‘Transfer’ Pay Cuts

Affects Cops, COs

By Reuven Blau

The city’s chief negotiator last week said he was confident the City Council would pass legislation to require that Police and Correction Officers seeking to transfer into the Fire Department come in at the drastically reduced entry-level pay for the job rather than carrying over their salaries.

That provision, which the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association agreed to support as part of its tentative contract agreement with the Bloomberg administration, is expected to save the city $4.5 million during the length of the four-year contract.

PBA Opposes Change

But Patrick J. Lynch, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president, has been critical of the proposed change, which figures to discourage officers from transferring from the NYPD to other city agencies. “Lowering the starting salary for cops who roll over to the FDNY is a thinly veiled attempt to hold unhappy police officers hostage,” Mr. Lynch told the Daily News on Oct. 28, a day after the UFA deal was announced.

There were initial indications that the PBA would lobby the Council against the transfer amendment. PBA spokesman Al O’Leary declined to comment on that possibility.

The PBA, though, has clearly already reached out to Peter F. Vallone Jr., the Chairman of the Council Public Safety Committee, concerning the matter. “The chairperson has heard concerns from both sides, and he is going to continue to look at it,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Mr. Vallone.

City officials have said that about 14 percent of the Firefighters hired over the past four years previously worked for the NYPD. Presently, such transfers allow the officers to carry over their pay levels. If the legislation were approved, it would not affect the transferred employees’ pension rights, which would include their service in other departments.

City Labor Commissioner James F. Hanley expressed confidence that the Council would agree to change the Administrative Code. “It will happen,” Mr. Hanley said in a Nov. 3 phone interview. “I have never been involved in piece of legislation that had dual support that did not get passed.”

‘Not Their Issue’

Asked whether he was concerned the PBA might lobby against the legislation, Mr. Hanley responded, “It’s not their issue.”

He noted that the proposed contract must first be ratified by the UFA’s 8,700 members before the provision is placed before the Council. Should the legislation get bottled up, however, the city and UFA would have to renegotiate that credit, with the union required to offer some other savings.

The NYPD loses over 3,000 cops each year to retirement, transfers to other jurisdictions, and departures of officers who leave before qualifying for pensions or are fired from the job. It costs the city close to $100,000 to recruit and train each new cop.

The UFA wage accord includes a 17.52-percent wage increase over 50 months, a portion of which is financed by slashing the starting salary for new hires to a split rate that totals $30,800, compared to the old minimum of $36,878. The tentative deal also calls for all Firefighters to work an extra 15-hour tour.

Close Ties

Anthony Garvey, the president of the Lieutenant’s Benevolent Association, pointed out that Mr. Lynch and UFA President Stephen J. Cassidy have had a good rapport.

“I think they have a very warm and close relationship,” Mr. Garvey said. “I really don’t know what they are going to do, but I think at the end of the day you have an obligation to your members.”

After the PBA arbitration award was announced earlier this summer, Mr. Cassidy was the lone union leader to defend the attrition-based contract issued under the aegis of the Public Employment Relations Board. “It’s a clear victory for the PBA,” Mr. Cassidy said in June. “What the PBA achieved shattered the civilian package; this contract is truly better.”

The city’s other uniformed union leaders, however, blasted the deal, and questioned Mr. Lynch’s integrity. According to Mr. Garvey and Detectives’ Endowment President Michael Palladino, Mr. Lynch had assured the other uniformed unions at Fire/Police Coalition meeting that the PAB would not sign off on an attrition-based contract.

Forced to Give More

Police Officers have a much higher attrition rate than other uniformed employees, including those in higher ranks in the NYPD. That has forced the other unions to agree to additional concessions, such as further stretching officers’ salary schedules and requiring them to work extra or longer tours, to finance a similar raise.

The third-and fourth-year wage hikes in the UFA’s tentative accord are consistent with those under the sanitation union contract announced Oct. 12. That portion of the contract has set the pattern for the next round of bargaining, Mayor Bloomberg has insisted. Historically, the maximum pay rate for cops and Firefighters has been equal.

Despite that fact, the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association and the PBA have so far refused to accept those financial terms. “I don’t think you are going to find an arbitrator [who would] break that pattern,” Mr. Garvey said. “If they want more than that, they are going to have to pay for it with more appearances.”