The Chief
November 9, 2007

PBA Says Sanit Staff Cleans Up, Cops Get Trash

Wants Pay Disparity To Be Corrected In Arbitration

By REUVEN BLAU

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Oct. 30 slammed the Bloomberg administration for paying veteran Sanitation Workers nearly $9,000 more than what Police Officers receive at maximum salary.

'NOT ABOUT ABILITY TO PAY': Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch, flanked by members of his board, says that raising salaries enough to end NYPD recruitment and retention problems 'is not about ability to pay. It's about a willingness to pay on the part of this administration. We want the people that want to follow their passion for law-enforcement into the NYPD, like they used to.'

The Chief-Leader/Pat Arnow

'NOT ABOUT ABILITY TO PAY': Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch, flanked by members of his board, says that raising salaries enough to end NYPD recruitment and retention problems 'is not about ability to pay. It's about a willingness to pay on the part of this administration. We want the people that want to follow their passion for law-enforcement into the NYPD, like they used to.'

"This is not an attack on New York City Sanitation Workers," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch. "[But] New York City is the only city in America that pays the people collecting household garbage more than the people who risk their lives fighting crime and the real threat of terrorism."

$8,766 Above Cops

During the period for which the PBA is seeking a contract - from mid-2004 to 2006 - the maximum salary for Sanitation Workers was $57,392, which rose to $68,354 after other incentives for collecting added tonnage were included, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch pointed out.

"That is $8,766 more than Police Officers at top pay, who earn $59,588 for risking their lives to keep our city safe," he asserted during a press conference at union headquarters in lower Manhattan.

A mayoral spokesman maintained the discrepancy was the result of the PBA's refusal to accept the city's numerous wage offers, while virtually all the other uniformed unions have already approved similar terms.

'Not Bargaining'

"The question PBA members should be asking isn't why Sanitation Workers make more than them; it's easily answered because the sanitation union has come to the table and negotiated raise after raise," said Jason Post, referring to bargained agreements in 2005 and this July. "The real question is why the PBA is content being left behind by Police Sergeants, Detectives and Captains who all received 28-percent increases over the same period with no productivity enhancements."

The Bloomberg administration and PBA have been locked in a bitter contract row that has dragged on for more than two years. Contract arbitration hearings were set to begin on Nov. 6, the day this newspaper hit the stands.

Police Officers have been working under a contract that expired Aug. 1, 2004. In contrast, this July the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association negotiated a 4-1/2-year deal that will expire Sept. 20, 2011, placing the PBA seven years behind.

That contract actually raised the base maximum salary for Sanitation Workers to $67,141 after 5 or 5-1/2 years on the job, depending on when they were hired.

Cops' Productivity Beef

Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, said he wasn't "offended" by the comparison. "If they would have negotiated, their salary would have gone up, and they would probably be making more than us," he remarked during a phone interview.

A portion of a pay hike the USA negotiated in 2005 was generated in return for a commitment to pick up more garbage every day, from the prior standard of 10.6 tons to 10.7 tons. In addition, all recycling trucks now collect 6.2 tons per shift, up from 6.1 tons. Those who meet those targets receive $2 per qualifying shift paid into their annuity funds. The contract also included a $5-per-shift pay incentive for workers to empty their trucks at the end of their collection routes.

In the PBA's latest salvo against the city's bargaining tactics, Mr. Lynch contended that a similar system can't be applied to cops, putting them in an intrinsically unfair position. "Police unions are placed at a distinct disadvantage because [officers'] productivity is hard to measure and count," he said. "New York City is effectively saying to New York City Police Officers, because it's difficult to count or weigh your work, the lives you save and the work you do have no value."

The NYPD, he added, has 5,000 fewer officers than in 1999, but crime continues to go down. "We are doing more with less," he asserted.

The department has lost more than 1,000 officers to other higher-paying jurisdictions as well as some who have actually applied to become Sanitation Workers, Mr. Lynch said. "Raising top pay for New York City is not only right and just, but it will solve the crisis," he contended.

Mr. Nespoli said the PBA over the years has rejected the city's productivity proposals. "They offered the PBA savings to go to a one-man car, and the PBA at that time said they didn't want to get involved," Mr. Nespoli recalled. "That was their choice."

In contrast, the USA has continually negotiated productivity savings in return for additional raises and benefits. "We saw productivity as a way to save money for the city and to put more money in our members' pockets," he remarked. "Yes, the routes are longer, and the men have to work harder to achieve the extra money, [but] they are getting compensated."

Scare Tactic

At the end of the week, Mr. Lynch ripped the city's recent negative fiscal projections, which were announced the same day as the PBA press conference. "This is part of the city's standard operating procedure where they use large projected budget deficits to drive everything from contract negotiations to government aid," he said in a statement. "The city has projected huge budget deficits over the past four years and finished with multi-billion-dollar surpluses, and that will happen again."

The city's worsening fiscal situation will likely be a factor in the upcoming arbitration hearing, which could hurt the PBA's chances of breaking parity, labor insiders have said.

The PBA, however, contends the situation is not as dire as the Bloomberg administration is forecasting. "The city's doom-and-gloom scenario is a budget tactic and is not an accurate picture of the city's strong fiscal health," Mr. Lynch maintained.

Gloom Turned to Boom

According to the PBA, last fiscal year the city projected a $2.25-billion deficit, but actually ended with a $4.66 billion surplus. Similar miscalculations have been repeated since FY 2004, the union added.

The PBA is facing the difficult job of trying to break an existing uniformed wage pattern by convincing the three-person arbitration panel - chaired by Susan T. McKenzie - to significantly change how cops are compensated to make their salaries competitive with those of officers in Long Island and at the Port Authority.

The Office of Labor Relations, however, has maintained that since 1898 there has been salary parity between Police Officers and Firefighters, who accepted raises of 3 and 3.15 percent for the period to be covered by the PBA arbitration.