September 5, 2002

Cops' Done Deal

PBA happy, mayor annoyed about 11.5% raise over two years

By William Murphy and Leonard Levitt STAFF WRITERS

  PBA President Pat Lynch

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that a state arbitration panel had awarded police officers an 11 1/2 percent raise over two years, a long-awaited ruling that appeared to please the police union but clearly annoyed the mayor.

Entry-level pay for officers will rise from $31,305 to $34,514. Top pay after five years - known as the basic maximum - will go from $49,023 to $54,048.

At a news conference at City Hall yesterday, Bloomberg said he believed the union, the 27,000-member Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the largest of the police unions, would accept the contract "for reasons I don't quite understand."

"The PBA is going to get awarded exactly, to the penny, what Rudy Giuliani offered them well over a year ago," Bloomberg said. "They were promised, I believe, something like 23 percent by the PBA. They will in fact get the same that the other uniformed services have gotten."

Actually, the award by the state Public Employment Relations Board, is binding.

It covers the two years that ended on July 31.

Bloomberg had offered the union a 14 percent raise over 30 months in return for 10 extra days of work, and his oblique criticism appeared to reflect his annoyance with PBA president Patrick Lynch for rejecting it.

The board, however, recommended no give-backs, and the union accepted the lower salary and shorter contract instead.

PBA spokesman Al O'Leary heralded the decision as a union victory, adding that the settlement "broke the pattern" of awards given to other uniformed union members. Bloomberg said it did not.

"It is not enough," O'Leary said. "It does not bring us up to the levels of other police departments in the metropolitan area. But it does offer some relief to the most overworked and underpaid police officers in the nation."

Bloomberg said that with the city's budget problems, the police union should have agreed to productivity improvements that would have given officers more money. He said the union had needlessly spent an estimated $5 million to $6 million on arbitration and that the city also incurred costs that could have been better spent elsewhere.

Most other uniformed union have already settled their last round of contracts on similar terms but through negotiations rather than arbitration.

The one notable exception is the Uniformed Firefighters Association, representing more than 8,000 firefighters, whose leadership accepted a similar deal in August 2001 but decided not to put it out for a membership vote after Sept. 11.

The Uniformed Fire Officers Association, representing the department's superior officers, had already ratified a similar pact.

The mayor put all municipal unions on notice that any future pay increases would have to be paid for by productivity, a demand made with varying success by many mayors in the past.