The New York Times

September 13, 2002


A Pay Raise for the Police

Since the Sept. 11 attack, the Police Department has grown even more important to New Yorkers. So it was comforting when a state arbitration panel finally ended the police officers' long-running contract dispute with the city, eliminating the distraction of heightened labor tensions.

The decision was a long time coming, partly because of the insistence of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association on fighting to get the State Legislature to make a state panel, the Public Employment Relations Board, the final arbiter. The P.B.A. believed that the board would be more sympathetic than the city's Office of Collective Bargaining. Getting what it wished for, however, produced an award that fell short of the P.B.A.'s goal of a 21.9 percent pay boost and, ultimately, parity with the salaries of officers in nearby suburbs.

Instead, the city's 24,000 rank-and-file officers will receive an average of 11.75 percent for the 24 months that ended July 31. The level of the raises is probably about right, given the city's projected $5 billion deficit, and the raises exceed most in the private sector.

The most important thing about the arbitrators' award may be that it further fractured the tradition of pattern bargaining, under which the city has negotiated basically the same pay deals with all of its unions. It may make sense to concede that while the city values all its workers, the demands of some jobs make them worthy of better contract terms than others. But when the city and the P.B.A. begin negotiating a new agreement, as they will shortly, a heavy dose of realism must be brought to the table. Post-9/11 police staffing needs mean that increased productivity will have to be linked to any future raises.