Chief-Leader
 Updated: 5:51 pm, Mon Nov 16, 2015

 

PBA Leader Denounces Contract Award As An ‘Insult to Cops’ Work’

Furious Over Two 1% Hikes, But Cops Can Expect $8,000 Back Pay

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
TRANSLATING DOLLARS TO RESPECT: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegates Kevin Murphy (left) and Joe Reale were among hundreds of union members picketing outside Gracie Mansion Nov. 11 in protest of an arbitration award that gave them just two 1-percent raises over a two-year period. Mr. Murphy said that despite an arbitrator’s finding that there was no ‘exodus’ from the NYPD to suburban departments because of salary issues, the primary reason for that was that the department had made it difficult for other agencies to obtain officers’ personnel records while doing background checks.
 
‘CRIME IS RISING, OUR PAY IS SINKING’: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch, leading his second street protest in six days against what he anticipated would be an unsatisfactory arbitration award, said, ‘All we are asking for is to be treated and paid like the professionals we are.’

By RICHARD STEIER

A final Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association award for a two-year contract providing a pair of 1-percent raises and a few fringe-benefit improvements was issued Nov. 13 by Howard C. Edelman, chairman of the three-man arbitration panel, two days after the union for the second time over a six-day period questioned his integrity, in this case during a noisy protest outside Gracie Mansion.

PBA Rep a Dissenter

An indication of the union’s discontent with the award was that its representative on the panel, attorney Jay Waks, refused to sign it and was expected to issue a dissenting opinion later this month. The award needed two signatures; the de Blasio administration’s representative, Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn, joined Mr. Edelman.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch reacted with predictable anger to the decision, saying in a statement, “Our police officers brought this city back from the brink of disaster and brought us to this time of billion-dollar surpluses. A 1% raise at a time when the cost of living rose by 5% is an insult to every police officer’s work and sacrifice.”

He charged that Mr. Edelman “was compromised by the city by secretly accepting more work from the city.” A union spokesman, Al O’Leary, said the arbitrator was offered “at least two additional [city] arbitrations that he accepted” while the PBA case was proceeding, suggesting that the promise of future city work might have induced him to tilt his decision.

Mr. Edelman declined to comment on the union’s flurry of attacks on his integrity, which began with full-page ads in the New York Post and carried over to a Nov. 5 pro­test outside his Upper East Side apartment and the Gracie Mansion rally Nov. 11.

Mayor de Blasio noted in a statement that the arbitration award “follows the pattern we previously established with eleven uniformed unions, including the four other police unions… Our door is always open to the PBA to negotiate a long-term contract that addresses wages, benefits and other issues, as we’ve done with 85 percent of the workforce to date.”

Sought Breakthrough Deal

Mr. Lynch had been seeking an award well above what other uniformed unions have negotiated over the past 11 months, contending his members were entitled to a “market-rate” wage hike that would bring their sal­aries into line with what Police Officers in surrounding jurisdictions are making.

The union noted that while maximum salary for its roughly 23,000 members stood at $76,488 under its old contract, which expired Aug. 1, 2010, top pay for their counterparts in Nassau and Suffolk counties was more than $107,000, and in the considerably-less-affluent jurisdiction of Newark, N.J., it was $84,914.

In addition to what Mr. Edelman said would have been a 17-percent pay raise that over two years would have been more than 50 percent higher than the 11-percent hikes other uniformed unions got for a seven-year period, the PBA sought a differential equaling 15 percent of salary for all members with a college degree; a 10-percent differential for anti-terrorism duty; one of 12 percent for all Police Officers with eight or more years of service who have patrol assignments; increased lon­gev­ity payments for cops with at least 15 years’ service of up to $2,000 a year, and an incentive program for officers who did not use sick days that would have given those who were out ill just once in a year $800, while paying $1,600 to those who had perfect attendance.

City: Pattern Essential

The city’s demands weren’t nearly as ambitious, with the biggest one centering on the need to preserve the wage pattern set in the previous uniformed-union deals this bargaining round, which covered four city agencies and all four of the other NYPD unions.

Mr. Edelman noted in his 100-page award that the city said regarding that pattern, “Giving the PBA more would heighten acrimony between it and the other uniformed leaders and would render it unlikely that voluntary settlements could be achieved in the future.”

The city also contended, he wrote, that for the PBA’s argument for a market-rate increase beyond the pattern to be successful, the union “must establish unique and critical circumstances which would justify doing so.” The city claimed that the PBA had failed to do so; that however sizable the gap in salary with neighboring police departments was, once fringe benefits including pension and health benefits and the pension-related $12,000 Vari­able Supplements Fund payment to retirees were factored in, there was minimal difference in the total compensation packages. Among the areas where the NYPD pension was superior, the city argued, were a smaller employee contribution—no more than 3.55 percent of salary while those employed in other jurisdictions paid as much as 14 percent—and the lack of an age requirement before someone with 20 years’ service could begin collecting his or her retirement allowance.

Kept Comparison In-House

Mr. Edelman concurred that PBA members should be compared to other city law-enforcement groups rather than Police Officers in other jurisdictions, noting, “Ser­­geants, detectives, lieuten­ants and captains must possess the same skills as the men and women they supervise.”

He also noted that while cops employed in Nassau and Suffolk earned significantly more at maximum salary, those counties were not responsible for providing “the level of services New York City does,” which limited the money it had available to cover police salaries. This created, he wrote, a paradox that existed in other parts of the nation as well: “Large cities, which make for difficult police work, tend to pay their officers less than more-affluent suburbs where law-enforcement duties are arguably less onerous.”

He also pointed out that despite the pay discrepancies, there was no sign that this had a major impact on the city’s ability to recruit and retain qualified officers. Saying there was a “minimal” amount of departure from the NYPD to suburban departments for higher pay, he wrote, “From 2009 to 2014 fewer than 100 officers have left the city under these circumstances. Qualified applicants here exceed vacancies by the thousands.”

Cite NYPD Pressure

The PBA in presenting its case said that the small number of such defections was attributable to matters including a relative lack of job openings in the better-paying departments, the city’s ability to demand that it be reimbursed by those departments for the cost of training those officers, and its “practice of not divulging the personnel records of those leaving its employ to municipal agencies elsewhere.” One PBA delegate said during the Gracie Mansion rally that the NYPD forced other departments to come to 1 Police Plaza and pay for photocopies of officers’ records, which tended to deter them from hiring those officers.

Mr. Edelman wrote that while the 1-percent raises—which match what other uniformed unions got for the first two years of their longer contract—were modest, enough time has passed since their effective dates, Aug. 1, 2010 and 2011, that all cops working since the beginning of that period would receive back pay of at least $8,000. And, he pointed out, if the union ultimately decided to take another pair of 1-percent raises which would cover the period ending July 31, 2014 that other uniformed unions accepted for a similar period, they would be receiving another $6,000 in accumulated back pay.

The only additional benefit he provided under his award with a direct financial cost to the city was a $50 boost in the annual uniform allowance, which had been $1,000.

To Explore Longer Tours

On one key union demand—the granting of longer tours of either 10 or 12 hours, which would reduce the number of appearances cops are required to make under the current regimen of 8-hour, 35-minute tours while remaining in compliance with the annual sched­uling requirement of 2,088 hours under the state Public Officers Law—Mr. Edelman directed the two sides to convene a committee by mid-February to study the issue and make recommendations within a year.

He also ordered that an 11-year-old pilot program easing the requirement that employees while on sick leave remain confined to their homes or face discipline if found to be outside them during scheduled work hours be expanded to apply to the entire bargaining unit, except for those employees deemed to be “chronic sick” or facing other disciplinary sanctions.

And Mr. Edelman improv­ed officers’ vacation rights in being able to pick time off based on seniority, and to donate vacation days to colleagues who need them for medical or other emergencies, provided their commanding officer approved and there was no fi-

nancial advantage gained in the transaction.

He also limited the degree to which the NYPD can dock an officer’s pay in the case of an overpayment it made, with no more than 7.5 percent of the cop’s gross pay to be withheld from regular paychecks.

What’s Next for PBA, UFA

Prior to the award being finalized, asked during the Gracie Mansion demonstration what the PBA’s next move would be, Mr. O’Leary said, “We’ll negotiate with City Hall and if they give us a market rate of pay, we’ll do it through negotiations. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be at PERB.”

The award appears to have taken a tentative Uniformed Firefighters Association contract out of the limbo it had been in since a Sept. 23 vote by delegates was postponed. At the time, UFA President Steve Cassidy said enough concern had been expressed by delegates that the PBA arbitration would produce better terms than other uniformed unions had negotiated that it was decided to delay the vote until after the police-union award was issued.

A spokesman said shortly after that finally occurred last Friday that the delegate vote was likely to be conducted before the end of this month. If, as is now expected, the contract passes that hurdle, it will be sent to the UFA rank and file for final ratification.