Chief-Leader
October 1, 2013

 

PBA Rejects City Pay Proposal’s Givebacks: No Thanks for Nothin’

3-Year Pay Freeze, Health Benefit Payments, Added Work Tours Sought

By MARK TOOR

   

PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘A slap in the face to cops.’

 

The Bloomberg administration has told the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association that it wants to bring back a much-reviled feature of the Giuliani administration: zeroes for heroes.

The PBA began talks in July on a new contract despite a statement by Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway that because of the city’s financial problems, the unions would have to give up any hope of retroactive pay and agree to fund part of the cost of health care.

On Sept. 17, the city gave the union its counter-offer.

Triple Zero Plus Givebacks

“The city presented a five-year deal that includes zero raises for the years 2010-2013, along with two years of 1.25-percent raises going forward,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a memo to union members. “The offer also includes demands for health-benefit savings through employee cost-sharing, as well as productivity savings achieved by increasing scheduled appearances, reducing vacation days and diminishing holiday pay.”

He told THE CHIEF-LEADER: “In these dangerous times for New York City, offering three years of zeros and two years of 1.25-percent raises—far less than the cost-of-living increases—is bad policy for the city and a slap in the face of our police officers, who are shouldering the work of a force that was once 7,000 stronger. With heightened scrutiny placed on police officers by Federal mandate and misguided City Council legislation, and the threats of crime and terrorism undiminished, it’s time to raise New York City police pay to make it the highest—not the lowest—big-city law-enforcement salary in the nation.”

In his memo, which is critical of Mayor Bloomberg’s stewardship of the Police Department, Mr. Lynch said that the offer showed “little flexibility or willingness to modify its very public and draconian bargaining stance.”

A Ticking Time Bomb?

The city’s unions are all working under expired contracts. The PBA’s expired in 2010; some unions have contracts that ran out four years ago. The unions have been counting on retroactive pay, which has been a feature of the municipal labor scene for at least 50 years.

Mr. Bloomberg’s critics say he neglected dealing with the unions, either by negotiations or by setting aside a reserve to pay for raises, so he could balance his own budgets and leave the ticking time bomb of labor settlements to his successor.

Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which also has opened talks on a new contract, said in an interview that his union had yet to hear back from the city. But he found the Bloomberg administration’s offer to the PBA “ludicrous.”

“I wouldn’t even take that call,” he said. “It’s obvious that he doesn’t want to settle. Everyone’s just waiting for the next guy.”

PBA: Pay Us Like PA

Mr. Lynch said that in its initial offer the PBA had asked the city to comply with the 1968 recommendation of a mediation panel chaired by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg that New York City police officers should be “among the highest-paid in the country.” The union said that principle had been upheld twice by the state Public Employment Relations Board.

“At the very least, we require wage increases to bring our salary schedule in line with that of Port Authority police officers, who have received a basic maximum salary of $90,000 since 2009,” Mr. Lynch said. That is nearly $14,000 above the current top rate for NYPD officers.

“The wage increases included in the city’s offer not only fail to apply either the Goldberg standard or the Taylor Law criteria requiring comparison to ‘employees performing similar services or requiring similar skills under similar working conditions,’ but fail even to account for inflationary trends,” he continued.

“The proposed cumulative raise represents less than a third of the increase in the cost of living in our area since our current contract expired...and that amount is further diminished once productivity givebacks and health-benefit cost-sharing sought by the city in its proposal have been factored in.”

A Bad Signal

The offer also signals a lack of support for police officers “during a period in which the past failures of our city leadership are threatening to make our job more difficult and dangerous than it already is.”

Citing the Community Safety Act passed by the City Council over Mr. Bloomberg’s veto and a Federal Judge’s finding that the stop-and-frisk program is run in an unconstitutional fashion, he said, “We have been asked to assume the burden of failed management policies in the form of increased danger and safety risks, and greater exposure to legal liability and bureaucratic second-guessing.

“Whether or not these measures ultimately go into effect, it is more important than ever that this standard —compensation commensurate with the most difficult policing job in the world—be upheld.”

“Zeroes for heroes” were contained in a five-year contract handed up by an arbitration panel in 1997 that included two years with no pay increase, although cops had driven crime down sharply. Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, while insisting PBA members had to endure the same wage freeze as other city workers, found the money to give raises to top city officials, including a $20,000 hike for himself.

Police-union officials point to that two-year pay freeze as a reason why salaries for city police officers are substantially below those of neighboring departments even 20 years later.

Lhota Plays Hardball

The zeroes are a key reason for the lack of support among police unions for Republican mayoral candidate Joseph J. Lhota, who was a Deputy Mayor under Mr. Giuliani. Mr, Lhota has said he agrees with Mr. Bloomberg’s stances on retroactive pay and on health-care contributions.

The Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, is considered much friendlier to unions. But he has opposed several police initiatives, including aggressive use of stop-and-frisk, and fiscal conservatives claim he’ll give away the store in labor negotiations.