April 17, 2001

Police Win First Step in Contract Fight

by William Murphy Staff Writer

A court has cleared the way for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association to use state rules, rather than stricter city rules, to negotiate a new contract, officials said yesterday.

But the ruling, issued Friday in State Supreme Court in Albany, was just the first step in what is expected to be a long legal battle.

"We're appealing," said mayoral press secretary Sunny Mindel.

Union officials called the decision "a total victory for the PBA." The union thinks it has a better chance with a state process, under which it can compare the salaries of its members with those of higher-paid police in eastern and northern suburbs who fall under the jurisdiction of the state Public Employment Relations Board.

City negotiators and arbitration panels usually try to keep pay raises between different types of workers the same, so that city firefighters, for example, maintain the same basic wages as city police officers.

This was the PBA's second attempt to negotiate under state rules. The union lost a court battle in 1996 when the state Court of Appeals ruled the underlying legislation was unconstitutional. The PBA got the state legislature to pass a revised bill, which is now being tested in the courts.