January 13, 2005

City, police union near contract deal


The city and the main police union have finished presenting evidence to an arbitration panel, and a new labor contract is expected to be handed down within two months.

The contract for the members of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is expected to set the pattern for firefighters and uniformed workers as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's re-election race nears.

Both the city and the PBA finished presenting evidence and testimony Wednesday night to the three-member arbitration panel of the state Public Employment Relations Board.

Each side has until Feb. 18 to submit final written briefs and until March 4 to reply to the other's brief. A decision is expected about two weeks thereafter.

While the talks were held behind closed doors, the main thrust of the arguments are clear from documents obtained by Newsday, sources who did not wish to be identified and public statements, such as the comments posted by the PBA on its Web site.

The PBA argued, as expected, that the pay of its members should be closer to that of police in nearby suburbs, and the Port Authority police.

The union suggested a 20 percent annual pay raise for two years -- the maximum contract length the arbitrators can impose. It would run from August 2002, when the old contract expired, until last July.

The specific pay raise suggested by the city could not be determined, but it argued that the raise should be more in line with what most civilians got, 4 percent to 5 percent spread over three years and a $1,000 taxable signing bonus.

City negotiators have said each percentage point increase beyond what it has already offered would cost $220 million in the first year and more in succeeding years.

Union president Patrick Lynch declined to comment yesterday. The mayor's press office did not return telephone calls for comment.

Former State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, appearing as a union witness, said the city has to set priorities, and "you have to afford your priorities," according to a union report on his testimony.

The city has traditionally refused to comment on labor negotiations, saying it does not negotiate in the press.

But during the often-contentious talks leading up to the arbitration, a Bloomberg administration official said in an op-ed article in the Daily News that the average officer with 10 years' experience makes $73,189 in "direct compensation."

He added that retirees also get "an annual cash bonus" of $10,000 for the rest of their lives.

Union spokesman Al O'Leary said yesterday that the base pay for an officer after six years was $38,104 and that the so-called bonus was from a Variable Supplements Pension Fund to which the city does not contribute.