The Chief
July 13, 2007

Select Panel Chair For PBA Contract

Union's Appeal Denied

By REUVEN BLAU

After nearly a year of legal wrangling, the arbitration process for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association contract has finally moved forward with the selection of a panel chairman.

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Claims 'without merit.'
PATRICK J. LYNCH: Claims 'without merit.'

Veteran arbitrator Susan T. Mackenzie was named July 9 to chair the three-member panel that will decide the PBA contract. Ms. Mackenzie is the designated grievance mediator for United Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants, and Verizon and Bell Atlantic and the Communications Workers of America.

Hearings Not Imminent

The Public Employment Relations Board is sending Ms. Mackenzie an official notification of her selection, and the parties will then find out her availability for hearing dates. The hearings will likely not be scheduled for several months.

The veteran arbitrator was selected by an elimination process that presents a list of arbitrators' names to the PBA and city negotiators. The two sides cross off unacceptable candidates until they arrive at a name that both agree upon.

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RAYMOND W. KELLY: Recruitment frustration.

The selection came after the PERB Chairman rejected the PBA's appeal concerning which arbitrators should be placed on the list.

The PBA had reiterated its contention that two of the nine arbitrators - Stanley Aiges and Arnold M. Zack - on the roster that PERB Director of Conciliation Richard Curreri compiled were prejudiced against cops. The union had also questioned Mr. Curreri's authority to issue the list of arbitrators last year before the new board was appointed and confirmed.

PBA Shot Down

The board, however, upheld Mr. Curreri's decision, concluding that the PBA's argument is "without merit." Mayor Bloomberg had asserted that the PBA's appeal of Mr. Curreri's decision showed that the union has "no interest in settling this contract."

In a further attempt to block the list, the PBA petitioned State Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough to issue a preliminary injunction. Justice McDonough, however, dismissed the case in a July 6 bench decision, concluding that the union failed to establish the PERB decision would create irreparable harm.

Not to be denied, the PBA has filed an Article 78 complaint, arguing that the multiple rulings against the union were arbitrary and capricious. But PERB ordered the selection process to move on despite that pending lawsuit.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, who has been accused of stalling to use the NYPD's recruitment problems as leverage, stressed the importance of the upcoming arbitration proceeding.

'City's Health At Stake'

"There is much more at stake in this arbitration than an officer's paycheck," he said in a statement released before Ms. Mackenzie was selected. "While New York City Police Officers deserve a great deal more than what the city pays them, the future safety and fiscal health of this city will be determined by this arbitration's outcome."

The contract arbitration process has been bogged down and sidetracked by legal maneuverings and various administrative decisions, which has frustrated the Bloomberg administration and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in particular. The NYPD has had a difficult time attracting new officers under the drastically reduced starting salary of $25,100 for officers during their first six months on the job.

The department is currently 2,800 officers short of its projected hiring goals. In addition, the NYPD expects to appoint fewer than 800 recruits for its next Academy class.

The PBA is hoping to use the NYPD's continued recruitment problems to its advantage. "If it doesn't make salaries competitive with other localities, then New York City will not have enough police officers to keep our neighborhoods safe," Mr. Lynch said, referring to the arbitration panel. "The increase in crime that is sure to follow will chase away business just as it has in the past. The PBA has been sounding the alarm about the NYPD's staffing crisis since 2000, but the city has failed to heed our warnings."

Salary Tradeoff

Starting in May 2006, the Bloomberg administration made two offers to the PBA that would have raised starting salary by about $10,000. But the city also demanded that new officers accept reductions in leave time and some differential pay, concessions the PBA rejected.

City negotiators contend that the pattern raises negotiated by the Uniformed Firefighters' Association would significantly increase the starting salary and maximum pay for police officers, eliminating the union's contention that there is a need to structurally change how cops are compensated based on other jurisdictions.