The Chief
May 4, 2007

PBA Calls Clause Of UFA Contract Illegal

Objects to Reopener

By REUVEN BLAU

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association April 28 became the second uniformed union to file an improper labor practice charge against the recent Firefighter contract agreement.

PATRICK J. LYNCH: No parity clauses allowed.  
PATRICK J. LYNCH: No parity clauses allowed.  

The PBA contends that the Uniformed Firefighters' Association reopener clause violates state bargaining rules that prohibit "me-too" provisions. As a result, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch has asked the Public Employment Relations Board to void the provision.

'Interfering With Us'

"Parity clauses were outlawed years ago because they interfere with a union's right to negotiate a fair contract for its own members," Mr. Lynch said in a statement. "In resurrecting illegal parity clauses, the city is attempting to burden the PBA's negotiations by multiplying the financial consequences of a PBA arbitration."

UFA President Stephen J. Cassidy issued a statement in response: "Any attempt by the PBA to remove the reopener clause from our contract is without merit and will not happen."

In order to allay concerns Mr. Cassidy had about the PBA possibly winding up with superior wage terms through arbitration, city officials agreed to a reopener clause that covers not only this pact from 2006 to 2008 but the final two years of his preceding four-year deal.

City Labor Commissioner James F. Hanley said, "We haven't been served with any papers yet." Mr. Hanley will likely seek to use the reopener clause to the city's advantage during the upcoming PBA arbitration hearing. He is expected to try to persuade the arbitration panel that any award beyond the established wage pattern would have astronomical financial ramifications because the reopener clause would allow the other unions to seek similar additional raises.

'A Poison Pill'

Mr. Lynch blasted that position. "The city's voluntary agreement to pay other unions what the PBA receives in arbitration should be seen for what it is - a poison pill designed to deter an arbitrator from paying police officers fairly, as required by the Taylor Law," he said.

The union representing Correction Officers has also filed an improper labor practice complaint against the tentative UFA deal, asking the city's Board of Collective Bargaining to either void the agreement or rule that it cannot be used as a binding pattern in dealings with other uniformed unions.

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook accused the city of a failure to bargain in good faith by employing a "divide-and-conquer" strategy to make a secret deal with the UFA.

Many labor and city officials, however, strongly believe that complaint has little legal validity, especially since it was filed individually by COBA outside of the uniformed coalition.

Aimed At UFA Voters?

Several labor insiders last week speculated that the PBA's complaint filed against the Bloomberg administration is a way for the police union to convince Firefighters to vote against the proposed contract, which has already been overwhelmingly approved by the union's battalion and company delegates.

The contract is of particular importance for the Bloomberg administration and the PBA, as well as other uniformed unions. If approved by the UFA's membership, it would also likely put added pressure on the PBA to reach contract terms at a time when that union seems content to await an arbitration process that might not produce a new pact until sometime next year. It also figures to set a pattern for fire officers and employees of all ranks in the Police, Correction and Sanitation departments.

Since 1898, Mr. Hanley has pointed out, there has been salary parity between Police Officers and Firefighters, as well as with various titles in each department.

The PBA, however, is hoping to change that tradition, contending that its members' salaries should be based on what other agencies in surrounding counties pay their cops.