New York Post
May 20, 2008

Arbitration Panel Gives Raise to City Police Officers


Ending a protracted labor dispute, an arbitration panel on Monday awarded New York City’s roughly 23,000 police officers a retroactive 9.7 percent raise over two years and significantly increased the low starting pay for recruits by $10,781.

The panel’s decision was unusual in that it broke with tradition by giving the police officers a larger percentage raise than the one the city’s firefighters received over the same two-year period.

In exchange, the panel exacted significant concessions from the officers’ union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, reducing annual vacation to 10 days a year from 20 during officers’ first five years on the job.

The panel voted 2 to 1 in favor of the decision, with the police union’s representative on the panel the lone dissenter; the independent arbitrator and the city’s representative both approved the deal, officials said.

Even though the union representative refused to sign the deal, its president, Patrick J. Lynch, hailed it as a victory because it broke a tradition under which the city’s police officers and firefighters have received the same percentage raise in a given round of negotiations.

Mr. Lynch, in a statement, said the decision sent a strong message “that pay should be based upon the responsibilities employees have, the hazards and dangers they face, the skills and education required for the job and not antiquated pay relationships of a bygone era.”

City officials acknowledged the higher raise for the police officers but said it was largely offset by concessions worth 2.8 percent a year.

James F. Hanley, the city’s labor commissioner, said he expected the firefighters’ union, as well as other uniformed unions, to exercise their option to reopen their contract to try to attain the same raise granted the police. Mr. Hanley said that if the other unions agreed to similar concessions, they were likely to receive the same raises.

The panel’s decision in effect awards the police officers a new contract running from Aug. 1, 2004, to July 31, 2006, with a 4.5 percent raise the first year and 5 percent raise the second year. Over the comparable period, the firefighters’ now-expired contract for that period gave them raises of less than 3 percent the first year and of 3.15 percent the second year.

“You’re always happier if you can settle these things by negotiation,” Mr. Hanley said Monday evening, “but we’re really happy we could take care of the salary issue.”

He said the union was “very unhappy” about the concessions. A spokesman for Mr. Lynch said the union representative on the panel did not sign the decision because it did not go far enough in making police salaries competitive in the metropolitan area.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly sounded a similar note. “While we wished the starting pay was higher, this is a step in the right direction,” Mr. Kelly said through a spokesman.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the increases won by the union would be financed, in part, by increased productivity, which he says is a hallmark of his administration.

In particular, he pointed to the panel’s decision to reduce new officers’ vacation days. He also said the panel’s decision provided for more flexibility in deploying officers, thereby saving on overtime costs. Overtime is a prime way officers increase their pay.

The decision increases the maximum basic pay to $65,382 from $59,588. It is a financial boon for those veterans who have not seen a raise since 2004. Because the arbitration award gives police officers retroactive raises going back to 2004, many police officers will receive one-time checks of about $15,000, before taxes.

Those now being trained in the academy will get an immediate raise of more than $10,000, city officials said. The last arbitrator’s award set the pay for that six-month training period at an annual rate of $25,100, and this decision raises that figure to $35,881.

City officials said the increase in starting pay could help ease the recruiting difficulty the department has had recently.

The department is set to hire 1,250 recruits in July to meet the new authorized headcount of 36,838 officers. A higher starting salary might attract more recruits, though the proposed budget from the Bloomberg administration would hold the headcount unchanged through the 2010 fiscal year, officials said.

Currently, there are 35,700 officers in the department, down from a high of 40,800 in 2001, when a federal program allowed the department to hire as many as 1,900 officers in a year.

The award issued on Monday covers the two years from Aug. 1, 2004, through July 31, 2006. The city and the police union now must begin negotiations on a new retroactive contract, dating from Aug. 1, 2006.

Negotiations for the award settled Monday began in 2006, but reached an impasse after several rounds. The city and the union took months to agree on a three-member panel, which held 12 hearings from November 2007 through January 2008, and submissions of briefs and closing arguments after that.

The panel’s chairwoman, approved by both sides, was Susan T. Mackenzie, who has arbitrated between the Communications Workers of America and Verizon, and between the Association of Flight Attendants and United Airlines. The police union’s appointee to the panel was Jay W. Waks, a lawyer and partner in Kaye Scholer LLP, an international law firm in New York, while the city’s appointee was Carol O’Blenes, a partner in the labor department of Proskauer Rose LLP.

Mr. Hanley, the city’s labor commissioner, said the police union had recently boasted that it would get an arbitration award with raises of 5 percent a year without concessions. Mr. Hanley said the award announced on Monday was significantly less generous than that because it contained raises of 4.5 percent the first year and 5 percent the second, and concessions that he said totaled 2.81 percent of the officers’ yearly compensation.

Christine Hauser contributed reporting.