The New York Times

May 3, 2001

Mayor Says Union Billboard Misstates Police Compensation


A billboard erected yesterday in Times Square by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association provoked another clash over long-stalled city contract negotiations, with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani saying that the union had skewed its comparisons of police wages.

The 680-square-foot billboard, hung from a second-story facade on Broadway between 46th Street and 47th Street, was unveiled by union officials yesterday morning.

Under an oversize catch phrase that reads, "No wonder NYC can't hire cops," the billboard shows the average hourly New York City police wage, including benefits, of $28.82 as lower than that of departments in Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark and Nassau County, and those paid by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It lists the city's wage as more than 40 percent below that of Nassau County, $49.68, the highest hourly average pay shown.

"We have fallen so far behind other jurisdictions that New York City police officers are leaving in droves," Patrick J. Lynch, president of the police union, said at a news conference beneath the billboard.

But even before union officials made their pitch, the mayor appeared on the same patch of Times Square pavement yesterday to make one of his own, saying that the union's arithmetic was wrong.

The billboard "totally misstates the benefits given to New York City police officers," he said, adding that it did not reflect the wages paid to veterans of the department. Those wages, he said, are higher than those in Chicago or Los Angeles, although lower than in Nassau County or at the Port Authority.

The mayor's Times Square appearance, less than a half-hour before Mr. Lynch's, had been scheduled to dedicate a historic marker near the statue of the Rev. Francis Patrick Duffy in Duffy Square. When asked by a reporter about police union negotiations, he blasted union officials for what he called a "policy of selling the unborn," saying that they were willing to sacrifice benefits for newly hired officers while pushing for wage increases for more senior police personnel.

But Robert Linn, the union's chief negotiator, said in an interview yesterday that no proposals had been made that would give greater benefits to veteran officers than to those with less seniority. He added that he calculated the pay figures used in the billboard as hourly averages that would apply to officers through 20 years of service, and included benefits like pension contributions and health insurance.

A City Hall spokesman, Peter Fenty, would not elaborate on the mayor's comment on the union's bargaining tactics.

The city's contract with the police union expired July 31, and negotiators on both sides have reported little progress in bargaining.

Union officials are seeking a 39 percent across-the-board pay increase over two years, while City Hall has offered 2.5 percent annual raises.

Officials said the union's advertising campaign was budgeted at $73,000 for May. When asked to justify the expense, Mr. Lynch said the Police Department had spent $20 million on a recruitment campaign that had fallen short of its goal and the higher wages sought by the union would solve the recruitment problem.

The union's Times Square billboard highlights pay comparisons it has sought to use in contract negotiations for decades. Although the union and City Hall may continue to differ over how to compute pay scales and benefits, wage comparisons with other departments could have more weight in the current round of bargaining because of an April 16 court ruling by the state's Appellate Division in Albany.

The decision upheld a new state law that would assign a state board to arbitrate labor disputes with the city's police and firefighters, and to consider wage disparities with richer suburban departments and those in other cities.

The city has said that it will appeal the ruling to try to keep the authority for arbitration within its Office of Collective Bargaining, which has given less weight than the state board to wage comparisons between cities.