The Chief
February 9, 2007

Mayor Sues To Force Issue In PBA Arbitration

Seeks Panel Chair's Installation; Lynch: 'He's Desperate'

By REUVEN BLAU

The Bloomberg administration Feb. 2 sued the Public Employment Relations Board, seeking to force the state agency to designate the chairperson of the arbitration panel handling the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association contract.

"What's inexplicable is how PERB has dragged its feet and slowed the arbitration process to a halt instead of appointing a panel to hear the case," Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. "This is preventing us from settling this contract and giving Police Officers, rookies and veterans alike, much-deserved raises."

Want City's Choice Named

The lawsuit asks the Albany County Supreme Court to order PERB's Director of Conciliation, Richard A. Curreri, to name the city's choice, Arnold M. Zack, to chair the mediation panel.

The PBA, however, has questioned PERB's authority to act in the absence of a functioning board. PERB Chairman Michael R. Cuevas left in December after heading the agency for the past eight years. The board's two other per-diem members, John T. Mitchell and Marc A. Abbott, have also departed, with no replacements named by Governor Spitzer.

The PBA has also called Mr. Zack - the former president of the National Academy of Arbitrators - biased against the union because he served on a panel that a decade ago froze cops' pay for two years. That prior decision was based on a wage pattern set by other uniformed unions at the time.

"This suit is a desperate attempt by the city to stack the deck against its police offices by trying to name a biased arbitrator," PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement. "The Taylor Law decrees that a neutral arbitrator will decide the terms of this contract, and police officers will not stand for this blatant attempt to tamper with the process."

The city's suit, however, cited a memo attached to the list of nine arbitrators presented by Mr. Curreri to both sides in December stating that the city and union had to make their selections within five days. "The parties shall immediately notify the Board of the designated public member," the document states. "Upon the failure of one party to participate in the selection process, all names on the list shall be deemed acceptable to it."

On that basis, the city contended that Mr. Curreri must immediately designate Mr. Zack as the chairperson. The full PERB panel is not needed to take that "ministerial" action, city Labor Commissioner James F. Hanley contended last week.

But Mr. Lynch has maintained that PERB currently doesn't have the power to decide the matter. "The PBA, acting in their officers' best interests, have complied with every directive issued by PERB in this current dispute," he added. "But clearly the city is afraid to give these officers a fair hearing before an impartial arbitrator."

In attempt to boost the NYPD's recruitment efforts and break the contract stalemate, city negotiators have twice offered to raise the starting pay for new cops by roughly $10,000. Mr. Lynch has rejected both those proposals, primarily due to the concessions those deals demanded of new hires in other areas, such as vacation time.

The Bloomberg administration has maintained that the wage model for uniformed employees was set this round of bargaining in the fall of 2005 by the Uniformed Firefighters' Association contract, which provided raises of 3 percent and 3.15 percent in its last 26 months.