Chief-Leader
Updated: 5:24 pm, Mon., Nov 9, 2015

 

Infuriated by Proposed 1% Raises, PBA Takes Beef Home to Arbiter

Two-Year Limit on Award Cuts Down Chance of Matching Later Coalition Hikes

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
BASH THE UMPIRE: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegates and rank-and-file members filled the street outside arbitrator Howard C. Edelman’s Upper East Side home Nov. 5 to voice their displeasure with his proposed award of two 1-percent raises for the contract period covering Aug. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2012. Although the raises would match what other uniformed workers got in the first two years of their seven-year pacts, the PBA called them disrespectful and said they would further widen the gap in compensation that now exists with cops in neighboring departments.

By RICHARD STEIER

    
PATRICK J. LYNCH: Furious over proposed terms.  
 
HOWARD C. EDELMAN: Union brings battle home to him.  
 
STEVE CASSIDY: His deal looking better to delegates?  
 
ROBERT W. LINN: City’s position holding up.  

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, angry that the chairman of its contract arbitration panel has proposed limiting its award to a pair of 1-percent raises over two years, tried to pressure Howard C. Edelman to change his mind with a full-page New York Post ad calling him “the poster boy for the weal­thy ‘one-percenters’ who have made their fortune off of the backs of hard-working New Yorkers” and holding a large rally Nov. 5 outside his Upper East Side apartment building.

Dubbing him “Mister 1%,” the ad concluded, “Is he just callous? Or is he something worse?”

Mr. Edelman did not return a call seeking his reaction to the ad and the pro­test, at which union officials carried a mock coffin with “R.I.P. NYPD” printed on its top while more than 1,000 off-duty officers carried signs that read “Toughest Job, Lowest Paid” and “The Fix is In.”

Adheres to Pattern

But his proposed award, which would need the approval of at least one of the other two panelists, PBA attorney Jay Waks and city Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn, is actually consistent with deals previously negotiated with most of the city’s uniformed unions, including the other four NYPD ones representing Detectives, Ser­ge­ants, Lieutenants, and those in the ranks of Captain and above.

Those unions, however, got those raises as part of seven-year contracts providing 11-percent raises, but with 7 percent of those hikes coming in the final three years of their deals. The PBA signaled its intention of going to arbitration 18 months ago, before any uniformed unions had come to terms, in reaction to a United Federation of Teachers contract that was structured in a way unfavorable to the police union’s ambitious goals.

Under the rules of the state Public Employment Relations Board, which is overseeing the arbitration, an award cannot extend beyond two years unless both sides agree. Unless Mr. Edelman has a change of heart—and he told the Post he would issue his final award this week—the PBA would have three options, none of them particularly promising: accept what it considers an inferior deal that, because it is retroactive to Aug. 1, 2010, would already be more than three years out of date, and launch a new arbitration pro­ceeding; contest the award in court; or go back to the bargaining table and either accept the coalition terms under a seven-year pact or find savings in some area that could fund wage increases beyond the existing pattern.

UFA Has Pact in Hand

Whatever the PBA decides figures to also affect the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which agreed to a tentative contract in early August but postponed a delegate vote on the terms in late September because of rumblings that the deal might he rejected based on the belief that the PBA could subsequently top its terms in arbitration.

UFA President Steve Cassidy declined comment last week on whether the tentative arbitration award had convinced him it was safe to schedule a new vote on his deal. But there are several unique features the UFA accord if ratified would give to Firefighters—including a major improvement in the disability benefit for less-experienced Firefighters, the addition of a fifth Firefighter at 20 engine companies and the right to cash-in terminal leave pay—that would not be replicated or topped in the PBA arbitration.

Well Behind Suburbs

Three days prior to the protest outside the arbitrator’s home, after learning of Mr. Edelman’s draft award, the 24,000-member police union had released a statement saying that its members “are outraged” that he could offer those terms even while acknowledging that cops should be paid at levels “befitting the nation’s premier police force.” The PBA said that the draft award, which neither side was willing to release, also noted that NYPD officers earn “substantially less than other local police officers” with similar service time, including those in Nassau and Suffolk counties and Port Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority cops who are based in the city.

‘Misinterpreted Law’

Claiming that Mr. Edelman offered only “lip service with flowering admiration for the job they do,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said his members were particularly angry that the panel chairman had “misinterpreted” the Taylor Law by pegging his recommendation to the terms “negotiated by certain uniformed superior officers’ titles.”

He was referring to the deal negotiated last December by a coalition of superior-officer unions covering four uniformed agencies providing the 11-percent raise over a seven-year period. The PBA maintains the Taylor Law requires that cops be compared to their counterparts in other state jurisdictions, not to officers in higher ranks from the same city.

However outraged the PBA may have been, other union officials were not surprised, with one explaining, “I think if they had gotten more than the pattern it would have thrown the [city bargaining] process into chaos. Once the uniformed coalition took their deal last December, the writing was on the wall.”

The coalition deal featured a series of 1-percent raises in each of its first four years, followed by increases of 1.5, 2.5 and 3 percent, respectively in the final three years. Mr. Edelman was attempting to honor that structure by recommending the two 1-percent increases, which would be retroactive to the period from mid-2010 through mid-2012, to correspond with what the superior-officer unions got for the opening two years of their deals. (The Sergeants’ Benevolent Association was not part of the coalition, but agreed to the same terms a couple of months later.)

PBA Wanted 5% Hikes

Shortly after the Superior Officers Coalition deal was reached, it was disclosed that the city in the arbitration was offering the PBA just a 1-percent pay raise over two years, while the union was seeking two 5-percent wage bumps. The fact that the city extended the pattern created with the SOC to later include the SBA and Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, and negotiated a similar pact with the UFA although the ratification process is on hold, clearly strengthened the city’s case in Mr. Edelman’s eyes.

A decade ago, when the late Eric Schmertz was serving as the arbitration chairman in a dispute between the PBA and the Bloomberg administration, his declaration that he was determined to give cops two 5-percent pay hikes set off a flurry of lobbying by city officials, who argued such a deal would ­drive up labor costs so much once other uniformed unions sought similar terms that it would create serious budget problems. They eventually convinced Mr. Schmertz to offset a significant part of the cost by sharply reducing starting salary—from more than $36,000 to just $25,000 for new hires’ first six months on the job—and slowing the progression to maximum salary. At that point, however, the PBA was setting the pattern, since no other uniformed unions had reached terms—a sharp contrast with the current situation.

Three years earlier, however, it was the PBA that was able to secure a better deal than would have been provided under the preliminary recommendation by the arbitration panel, although not all of its members were happy about the changes it produced.

Wouldn’t Add Tours for Pay

In August 2002, the three-member panel was considering giving the PBA raises of up to 15 percent over a 24-month period—compared to a pair of 5-percent raises over 30 months that had been negotiated a year earlier by a coalition of uniformed unions—but it would have been contingent on cops working 10 additional tours per year. The tours, which would have been accompanied by a 20-minute reduction in officers’ shifts, would have given the NYPD considerably more flexibility in scheduling while reducing its overtime costs during high-crime hours and in handling special events.

Despite the prospect of fatter paychecks, having to work 10 extra tours at regular pay in return was so unpopular among many cops that the Daily News quoted union sources saying there was strong sentiment for a wildcat strike that would have begun on Labor Day.

A month later, the extra tours and the corresponding greater pay hikes were gone from the final award, but the PBA got two 5-percent raises over 24 months, giving their members a six-month edge over members of the uniformed coalition. Many members were still unhappy with the terms despite that advantage.

Set Expectations High

Part of the reason was that Mr. Lynch, then in his first contract round as PBA president, had contended that the union’s having recently gained the right to go to arbitration before PERB rather than the city Board of Collective Bargaining would produce a breakthrough contract. That raised expectations enough that the modest gain was a bit of a disappointment. Another factor was that as part of the preliminary aspect of arbitration known as scope of bargaining, the union lost the right—known as the 48-Hour Rule—of members to refrain from talking to NYPD investigators for two days regarding any incident in which they might face disciplinary action.

The PBA could go to court and argue that the pay disparity between city cops and their counterparts in other departments nearby is so extreme as to be “arbitrary and capricious,” which is usually the sole basis on which a court will overturn an administrative ruling. But that claim could be undercut by the fact that the other city police unions accepted those modest raises at the outset of their lengthier pacts.