The New York Times

August 20, 2002

Police Union Considers Suit in Battle for Bigger Raises


Five days ago, New York City's main police union held a rally in Times Square to demand larger raises, and yesterday the union threatened to ask a court to overturn a state arbitration panel's decision on police pay before the decision is even released.

Worried that the city's police will end up with a far smaller increase than the 21 percent sought by the union, the union has mounted an intense campaign to urge Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the arbitration panel to be more generous.

In an interview yesterday, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said he had asked the union's lawyers to study a possible lawsuit because he was unhappy with a draft decision that the chairman of the three-member arbitration panel was circulating.

The draft calls for giving the city's 24,000 police officers a 14 percent raise over two years, and in exchange, the police would work 10 more days a year, although their workday would be cut by 20 minutes.

"The most outrageous aspect of this is to ask our police officers to appear at work 10 more times each year," Mr. Lynch said. "They are already the most underpaid and overworked police department in the country."

The union has sent lengthy objections to the chairman of the arbitration panel, who wrote the draft, seeking to persuade him to increase the raise to more than 14 percent, eliminate the 10 proposed additional workdays or both.

This arbitration process is extremely unusual not only because one of the parties is threatening to sue before a decision is issued, but also because Mayor Bloomberg scooped the arbitrator last Friday and announced the details of the draft decision, even though there is not yet an official arbitration decision.

Mr. Lynch argued that a decision calling on the police to make 10 more work appearances a year would be illegal because, he said, the arbitration panel never received any evidence or documentation on the issue. The union argues that the panel can only decide on issues about which it has received evidence.

Two weeks ago, the panel's chairman, Dana Eischen, began circulating a proposed decision to the city and to the union, which have each designated a member of the panel.

The P.B.A. says its representative, Ronald Dunn, will refuse to sign the decision, while city officials say its appointee to the panel, Gary Dellaverson, has already signed it.

Mr. Eischen, who is considered the panel's neutral member, wrote the draft decision, but he has not yet signed it. City officials say they are confident that he will sign it and make the decision official.

The arbitration panel was set up by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board after the police union, upset by its inability to reach an agreement with former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, requested binding arbitration.

P.B.A. officials say they still hope that their objections will persuade Mr. Eischen to make the panel's decision more favorable to the police. The union's objections focus on the argument that the panel did not hear evidence to justify Mr. Eischen's recommendations.

Mr. Eischen did not respond to e-mail or phone messages left at his office yesterday.

When Mr. Bloomberg disclosed details of the draft decision on a radio program on Friday, he said that the city would like to pay the police more, but could not because of its $5 billion deficit.

Mr. Bloomberg said the draft decision called for giving the police the same raises received by other uniformed unions — 5 percent in the first year and 4 percent in the second.

City officials said the additional 5 percent called for in draft decision equals the increased productivity resulting from the additional 10 days of work.

P.B.A. officials voiced disappointment that the city had blocked a previous draft decision that was signed by the union and Mr. Eischen. That decision called for giving the union a 17 percent raise over 30 months. It would have required some longer tours of duty, but no extra tours.

The city vetoed that deal. It had the power to do so because the panel is not authorized to recommend a deal longer than 24 months unless both feuding parties agree to it.