The Chief
September 15, 2006

PBA, City Begin Wage Mediation

Next Session Sept. 29

By REUVEN BLAU

The first mediation session between the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and city negotiators was held last week, but details of the Sept. 5 meeting are being kept under tight wraps.

James Hanley     
JAMES F. HANLEY: Plays his cards close.  

The Public Employment Relations Board's chief city mediator, Philip L. Maier, is working to revive the stalled contract talks. The next session is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 29.

Won't Make Him Talk

"I'm certainly not going to talk about ongoing negotiations," said James F. Hanley, the Labor Commissioner. The PBA's contract expired on Aug. 1, 2004.

The PBA did not post details of the meeting on its Web site and declined to comment for this article.

The negotiations are being closely watched by the city's other uniformed unions, many of which have already agreed to four-year deals with the Bloomberg administration this round of bargaining. The mediation session also came as the NYPD struggles to attract and retain new officers because of the current salary structure, according to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

PERB appointed Mr. Maier after the city took the unusual step of petitioning the Board to declare an impasse in the contract talks, arguing that the PBA failed to formally respond to two wage offers. City negotiators have maintained that the wage pattern for uniformed employees was set for this round of bargaining last fall by the Uniformed Firefighters' Association's 50-month deal, which provided raises of 3 percent and 3.15 percent in its last 26 months. The earlier part of that deal replicated the two 5-percent raises the PBA won in arbitration last June covering a two-year period.

PBA Says No

     Pat Lynch
  PATRICK J. LYNCH: City 'devalues' cop jobs.

But PBA President Patrick J. Lynch and the Sergeants' Benevolent Association have so far rejected those terms, arguing that they don't keep pace with inflation.

The unions representing NYPD Detectives and Lieutenants, however, both agreed to extended 4-year contracts, noting that there has been a 100-year-plus salary parity between cops and Firefighters. Any arbitration panel, they have said, would likely seek to maintain that tradition.

Many labor officials and veteran cops believe that the PBA talks are headed towards arbitration. In four of the past five rounds of bargaining, dating back to 1991, the PBA's contract has wound up in arbitration because of stalled negotiations, with only a 1994 contract reached at the bargaining table. The arbitration process has traditionally taken well over a year.

Kelly Feels Urgency

Mr. Kelly, however, is hoping such a delay doesn't occur. He has called the $25,100 starting pay "a disgrace" and said it was making it difficult for the NYPD to attract the "people that we need to protect the city from terrorism and to continue to suppress crime."

For the first time in years, the department was unable to meet its hiring goals earlier this summer. 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 grow.

The struggle to attract new officers has become a problem for law-enforcement agencies throughout the country. Some departments have begun offering new recruits housing subsidies and other unique bonuses in order to fill their shrinking ranks. Mr. Lynch has rejected the city's 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 substantially increased.

City's Last Offer

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.

"The Bloomberg administration would have you believe that their proposal to increase starting pay was a magnanimous gesture, but the truth is that their plan is akin to earning more money for working more days," Mr. Lynch said on the PBA's Web site. "It is a zero-sum gain proposition that ultimately devalues the job of Police Officer."

Mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser responded, "We have made multiple offers that would raise starting salary for police recruits and give veteran officers the raises like the ones firefighters and other uniformed services have received."