The Chief
September 1, 2006

State's Top City Mediator Steps Into PBA Talks

Seeks to Broker Deal To Avert Wage Arbitration

By REUVEN BLAU

The Public Employment Relations Board has appointed a mediator to help revive stalled contract talks between the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Office of Labor Relations.

Pat Lynch     
PATRICK J. LYNCH: Bound for arbitration?  

The selection of its chief city mediator, Philip L. Maier, comes after city negotiators took the unusual step of petitioning PERB in July to declare an impasse, contending that the union failed to formally respond to two wage offers. A mediation session is scheduled for Sept. 5, a city official said.

Boost Comes With a Price

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch has rejected the offer to raise the starting salary for new officers by roughly $10,000, partly because of the givebacks it requires of future hires in other areas. The union has also argued that the maximum salary for cops needs to be increased in order to help recruit and retain new officers.

"We look forward to presenting our case for a well-deserved and long-overdue pay increase for New York City Police Officers to PERB mediator Philip Maier," Mr. Lynch said in a statement. "Time will tell if the city's unwillingness to pay Police Officers a salary that is competitive with other police agencies and to pay us for our real productivity increases, like handling more work with a reduced workforce, will stymie the mediation process the way it did the negotiating process."

Mr. Maier, who was un available for comment last week, was peripherally involved in the PERB arbitration hearing that dealt with a previous PBA contract dispute in 2002. As an Administrative Law Judge, he issued a declaratory ruling that concluded that non-mandatory provisions of the expired contract were not outside the scope of bargaining.

But Mr. Maier also ruled that certain issues relating to discipline, such as the 48- hour rule, were prohibited subjects of bargaining due to the Police Commissioner's authority over those topics under the city's Administrative Code.

Mr. Maier joined PERB as an ALJ in 1991, and has served as Regional Director of the New York City Office since 1993. He has presided over hundreds of cases, including the Sergeants' Benevolent Association contract dispute with the city in 2004. Prior to joining PERB, Mr. Maier served as a litigation attorney with the State Labor Relations Board.

PBA Faults City

The PBA has called the city's petition to declare an impasse "outrageous" and charged that it proved that the Bloomberg administration was failing to negotiate in good faith. The last official negotiation session took place June 28. At that meeting, city negotiators further increased their offer to hike pay for new recruits, but the raises would have been partially financed by additional concessions.

Based on the city's latest offer, new cops' salaries would rise to $37,800, from $25,100, for their first six months on the job, and then go to $40,000, for an overall first-year payout of $38,900. The maximum pay for all officers would increase to $63,309, from $59,588, after 5-1/2 years of service. Under the city's initial proposal, those raises would be financed by concessions for new cops including the annual loss of 10 vacation days, six holidays, and $100 toward their annuity funds until they reach maximum pay.

Arbitration Push?

According to sources, the PBA several months ago requested a substantial amount of information from the city dealing with NYPD operations, which is one sign that the union was preparing to go to arbitration once again despite Mr. Lynch's recent protests. But PERB arbitration hearings have traditionally been lengthy, and a contract through that route could take a year or more.

NYPD Feeling Heat

The city is looking to expedite that process, because the NYPD has had a difficult time attracting new officers under the sharply-reduced pay structure. The NYPD revealed last month that it came 231 candidates short of meeting its target for new Police Officers in the latest Police Academy class to bolster the department's ability to fight crime and prevent terrorism as the city's population continues to increase.

The department began training 1,511 new recruits July 10. The NYPD, however, had initially planned to hire 1,742 cops, which would have brought the total force up to 37,438 officers. Mayor Bloomberg had announced the city's plan to hire an additional 800 new cops and 400 administrative workers for the NYPD on March 21.

"I'm more concerned about the January hire," an NYPD source said. "Whatever the expectations are, I don't know if we are going to meet them. The salary is killing us."