The Chief
January 12, 2007

Say PBA Could Have Arbitrator Forced Upon It

Failure to Participate In Choice Leaves City Making Call

By REUVEN BLAU

The Bloomberg administration's selection to chair the arbitration panel handling the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association contract could be automatically chosen if the union continues to question the process, sources said last week. .

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Questions PERB's fairness.     
PATRICK J. LYNCH: Questions PERB's fairness.  

The two sides had been due to meet Dec. 27 to choose the chairperson from among a list of nine names presented by the Public Employment Relations Board, but the PBA canceled after objecting to two of the arbitrators, who a decade ago froze cops' pay for two years, conforming to a pattern set by other uniformed unions.

City: PBA Defaulted

"The rules and regulations of PERB say that in effect they've defaulted," asserted Labor Commissioner James F. Hanley. "Everyone on the list is deemed approved."

The union contended that it was merely questioning the process used to select a chairman. "Discussion regarding the appointment of an arbitrator is premature," PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement, "while the PBA awaits a response to a motion challenging both the lack of PERB board participation in the formulation of the arbitrators list and the inclusion of certain names in violation of the PERB selection criteria."

The PBA has argued that PERB officials promised the union that the list of arbitrators would not include any mediators who were involved in prior PBA decisions.

"Clearly, the inclusion of candidates who have ruled against the PBA in the past and the exclusion of those who have ruled favorably on PBA arbitrations demonstrates a lack of fairness," Mr. Lynch stated.

The two arbitrators at issue, however, were part of a panel operating under the jurisdiction of the city Board of Collective Bargaining, not PERB. Following their 1997 award, the PBA succeeded in getting legislation approved that permitted it to take contract disputes to the state panel.

A Changed Stance

Mr. Hanley has noted that the two arbitrators, Arnold Zack and Stanley Aegis, were on the lists of choices PERB presented to the two sides for the PBA arbitrations that were decided in 2002 and 2005. In neither case, he pointed out, did the union reject the lists based on their inclusion. He said he believed the union did so this time as a delaying tactic.

City negotiators have contended that Mr. Lynch would prefer that the contract not be decided until after his election next spring. A contract reached 15 months ago with the Uniformed Firefighters' Association that overlaps the two-year period at issue in the PBA negotiating impasse provides raises of 3 and 3.15 percent.

But Mr. Lynch and Sergeants' Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins have scoffed at the last two years of that deal, contending that it doesn't keep up with inflation.

The unions representing Detectives and Lieutenants, however, have both agreed to extended four-year contracts, noting that there has been a 100-year-plus salary parity between cops and Firefighters. An arbitration panel, they have said, will likely insist on maintaining that tradition.

Seeking Political Cover?

One labor insider suggested that Mr. Lynch might be backing out of the arbitration process to distance himself from an award which will likely fall short of what he has promised his members.

"Obviously something else is going on here right now," said another labor source. "I've never seen anything like this happen."

The insider noted that the PBA previously claimed that the Board of Collective Bargaining is biased and now appears to be questioning the impartiality of PERB. "I don't know, maybe they'll wind up in the Hague," he said.