Politico New York
6:55 p.m. | Nov. 13, 2015


Arbitrator announces PBA deal, in blow for union and win for mayor

By GLORIA PAZMINO

After two months of arbitration with the city and the rank-and-file police union, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board announced Friday that it had reached a final decision giving officers 1 percent raises every year for two years.

The decision, written by arbitrator Howard Edelman, brings an end to a bitter fight between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch, who has accused the mayor of shortchanging officers by offering raises that don't compare to what officers in nearby departments make.

The decision marks a huge win for de Blasio, who came into office with the city's entire uniformed workforce working under expired contracts. Since taking office, he has settled with nearly all uniformed workers, with the exception of the correction officers union and a handful of smaller unions.

"All we are asking for is to be treated and paid like the professionals we are," Lynch said in a statement following the decision, calling the 1 percent raises "an insult to every police officer’s work and sacrifice."

“It was New York City police officers who took this city off its knees and made it a safe place to live and work. Our police officers brought this city back from the brink of disaster and brought us to this time of billion dollar surpluses,” he said.

The decision is legally binding, and the contract pales in comparison with contracts the union managed to hammer out in previous arbitration sessions.

It also leaves Lynch with little recourse unless he appeals the ruling in court — a maneuver PBA officials have said would be too politically risky.

Under the ruling, the PBA’s 22,000 officers will receive a retroactive 1 percent raise effective August 1, 2010, followed by another retroactive 1 percent raise effective August 1, 2011. A starting officer will earn $46,548, rising to $48,399 after 18 months on the force. After five years, the salary will increase to $90,553, following a longevity bonus.

Labor contracts resulting from PERB arbitration cover only two years at a time — meaning that even as higher raises kick in for other unions under their own longer-term contracts negotiated with the city, the PBA is forced to start its bargaining sessions over every two years, losing out on such raises over the long term.

The first two raises follow the same bargaining pattern set by other law enforcement unions — including those representing sergeants, lieutenants and detectives — which reached deals with the city during normal negotiation proceedings.

As he has done since he was elected to lead the union, Lynch has long argued that rank-and-file officers deserve higher wages than what the city has offered, citing the difficulty of the job and the challenges of policing in the nation's biggest city.

After failing to reach a deal with the city, Lynch opted to go into arbitration proceedings — leaving the decision to an independent arbitrators who in years past had always ruled in favor of the union.

But this time, the gamble didn't pay off.

On the same day last year that de Blasio announced he had reached a deal with the United Federation of Teachers, the first in what would become a long line of city settlements with the unions representing the city's workforce, Lynch announced that the PBA had declared an impasse with the city and would move into binding arbitration.

Then, in May and June of this year, the parties held a total of 15 tense hearings, where the PBA argued its officers were paid below market rate.

Edelman wrote in his ruling that "the PBA insists that wage increases the panel orders must be market based and must far exceed the so-called pattern negotiated between the city and most of its uniformed service unions."

As detailed in his decision, the PBA provided evidence detailing what police officers make in nearby jurisdictions.

But the de Blasio administration and its chief labor negotiator Bob Linn argued that all police officers and uniformed members of service face risks and danger in their day-to-day work, and that if other law enforcement unions had been willing to accept the pattern that was offered, the PBA should, too.

“Today’s decision follows the pattern we previously established with eleven uniformed unions, including the four other police unions. Those settlements provide the fair wage increases that our uniformed employees deserve,” de Blasio said in a statement Friday following the decision.

He said his administration continues to have “an open door” to reach a deal with the union through normal negotiations.

“Our door is always open to the PBA to negotiate a long-term contract that addresses wages, benefits, and other issues, as we’ve done with 85 percent of the workforce to date,” he said.