The New York Times

September 11, 2002


Arbitrator Explains Reasons Behind Police Pay Decision

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE

Releasing a long-awaited decision to award New York City police officers an 11.7 percent raise over 24 months, the chairman of a state arbitration panel took pains yesterday to explain why the panel gave the police a slightly more generous deal than most other uniformed city unions.

The official, Dana E. Eischen, also explained why the three-member panel awarded far less than the 21.9 percent that the union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, had sought to catch up with officers in Newark and the suburbs.

Mr. Eischen, an arbitrator based in Ithaca, N.Y., said it would have been wrong for the panel to deviate significantly from the pattern the city had established with other uniformed unions. In July 2001, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and several uniformed unions, including the correction officers and sanitation workers, agreed to a contract with an 11.7 raise over 30 months, 6 months longer than the award to the police union.

In hearings that stretched for months, police union officials argued that the arbitrators should grant the city's 26,000 police officers far more than what other unions received because higher police pay in the suburbs was making it difficult to recruit and retain officers.

Mr. Eischen largely rejected that argument in citing the city's large budget deficit. "Especially because the panel is acutely aware that the city's post-9/11 fiscal environment is fraught with so many other perils, this would be an absolutely inappropriate time for this panel to blaze trails into new and unexplored areas of collective bargaining for the parties," he wrote in the 19-page decision.

Last Wednesday, when union and city officials disclosed details of the decision, Patrick Lynch, the union president, praised the award because it gave the police more than the other unions without requiring the officers to work 10 extra days a year, though the workday would be slightly shorter. Mr. Eischen had proposed the extra days in a draft decision, but discarded the idea when the police protested. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg criticized the award because it gave more money than the other unions received without requiring additional productivity — that is, the extra 10 days.

The decision was signed by just two of the panel's three members, enough to make it binding: Mr. Eischen and Ronald G. Dunn, the panel member appointed by the union. The panel member appointed by the city, Gary J. Dellaverson, refused to sign and said he would issue a dissent.

The panel said the decision was slightly more generous with the police than with the other unions because the city had major problems keeping and hiring enough police. In addition, the panel concluded that it would be unfair to give the police less than the 11.7 percent received by the other uniformed unions, as the city had proposed, even though the contracts for those unions' were six months longer.

The panel wrote that giving the police less would have created "the unacceptable result of unfair and unreasonable disparity" after the police played so heroic a role at the World Trade Center.

Explaining why the panel deviated slightly from the pattern, Mr. Eischen wrote that the award "is justified by record evidence clearly and convincingly demonstrating a recruitment and retention crisis in the New York Police Department which, if left unaddressed," will hurt public safety."

The panel said giving far more than the pattern "would be a clear invitation to the parties to seek more in arbitration than they could obtain in negotiation with knowledgeable negotiators."

Under the award, the police will receive a 5 percent raise in the first year and 5 percent in the second year. On the contract's last day, the police will receive 1.5 percent not as an across-the-board raise, but for other increases, like longevity pay.

The city's officers have been working without a contract since July 31, 2000. As a result, all the money will be paid retroactively.

Before the award, the starting salary for city police was $31,305. It will climb to $34,514. Top base pay after 20 years will rise to $54,048 from $49,023 in the old contract.