The Chief
February 8, 2008

Letter to the Editor

PBA's Pay Case

To the Editor:

In its zeal to interfere with the PBA panel's deliberations, The Chief-Leader (Feb. 8 editorial) has once again disregarded realities and facts to reach myopically pro-management conclusions.

Its assumption that reopener clauses with other uniformed unions would be triggered in the event of a more-generous award to the PBA and all would receive more is just plain wrong. A re-opener clause simply grants the right to re-open negotiations. It is not, as the Chief seems to suggest, a "me-too" clause, which is illegal in this state because it puts an unfair burden on the negotiating union. And as to those groups with re-openers, a city witness has stated under oath that the city's position would be they already have contracts and the city will not voluntarily give higher amounts to these groups.

Assuming other groups have the right to go to arbitration as a result of the re-openers — and that issue is by no means clear — they would then have to convince an arbitrator that they deserve more, given the criteria the panel would apply to their case. And then you really get to the crux of the matter: no group suffers from the same gross pay disparity as New York City police officers.

In fact, when you look at the data for these groups, they are all better-compensated than police officers vis-à-vis their comparators, with some being paid at market and some being paid well above market. And that makes all the difference under the statutory criteria that will be applied.

While we believe that all worker groups deserve to be paid a fair market salary, the decision to go to arbitration with all its variables is one that history shows us will be sparingly exercised, if at all.

As far as the city's ability to pay, the Mayor's recent budget pronouncements demonstrate that the city is now on track to finish with another $4-billion surplus. And that surplus is likely to grow by the end of the fiscal year.

And remember, the PBA arbitration covers the period 2004-06, a period of unprecedented prosperity in the city. The city has pled poverty for the last two decades in PBA arbitrations during both booms and bust periods in our business cycle. Yet, virtually without exception, the city has consistently produced substantial surpluses. While we believe there is never an excuse to pay one employee group 30 percent less than the market, the city's budget situation certainly does not provide one.

The bottom line is that Police Officers are underpaid like no other city employee group, and the City of New York can afford to pay an appropriate salary for its police officers, but refuses to do so. The uncompetitive pay scale at every level for police officers has resulted in the NYPD's staffing crisis and the scarcity of police officers in our outer boroughs (to perform a worthwhile service, the Chief might consider looking into the police staffing issues in the city).

It is time to disregard the Office of Labor Relations's "that's how we did it last time" attitude and to fix the problem of police pay inequity once and for all for the sake of our city's future.

PATRICK J. LYNCH, President, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association