July 13, 2001

Court: PBA Can Bargain on State Rules

by William Murphy Staff Writer

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association won another court battle yesterday to negotiate a new contract by using a state-run process it thinks will give its 27,000 members a better deal.

The Appellate Division in Albany unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that the PBA could bargain with the city under the rules of the state Public Employment Relations Board.

The Giuliani administration is trying to force the union to bargain under city rules, as it has for decades.

The PBA and its president, Patrick Lynch, have based their bargaining strategy on getting out from under the jurisdiction of the city's Office of Collective Bargaining and Board of Collective Bargaining. The union feels that by negotiating under state rules it can persuade an arbitration panel that the salaries of its members should be judged against police officers in the surrounding suburbs, where salaries are substantially higher.

The appeals court ruling said that the state Public Employment Relations Board should have jurisdiction in such cases, and it would be an "absurdity" to have two bargaining methods.

Lynch said yesterday that the city should return to the bargaining table immediately and address the PBA's demand for a 39 percent wage increase over two years.

"The sooner the city starts paying its police officers the decent and livable wage they deserve, the sooner it will solve its crisis in police recruitment and retention," Lynch said in a statement.

The city has already settled contracts with other unions for about 4 percent a year and says that sets the pattern for other unions.

"We plan on taking an appeal to the Court of Appeals," mayoral spokesman Matt Higgins said yesterday. "We will ask for an expedited appeal since it is such an important issue."