Staten Island Advance
August 11, 2002

Schumer wants raise for cops, firefighters

By Jennifer Friedlin

Sen. Charles Schumer called on President George W. Bush yesterday to allow New York City to use federal emergency funds to help boost pay for police and firefighters over the next two years as the city recovers from the impact of Sept. 11

“We know that in the last 11 months our brave firefighters and fine policemen have been under enormous physical and emotional strain. To add a financial strain is too much to ask, “Schumer told reporters. “I am asking President Bush to step in and help us.”

Schumer said the city would need to use only “ a relatively small” $500 million of the $21.4 billion in aid earmarked for New York in order to bring the pay raises up to the level demanded by police and firefighters. Starting salaries for police and firefighters begin at $31,000.

The state’s Public Employment Relations Board is in the process of hammering out a legally binding contract for the police, who are demanding a 21.8 percent increase. Their contract expired in June 2000.

Fire department workers, who have been working without a contract for the past 26 months, are waiting to see what kind of deal the police get before they decide how they will move forward in negotiating their contract, said Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

The negotiations come at a time when the city is facing a financial crunch in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the country’s economic downturn.

In addition to asking for funds for increased pay, Schumer called on the federal government to release emergency funds to the city that could be used to cushion the pension program and stem a growing tide of retirements.

Currently, police and firefighters receive a pension equal to 50 percent of their final 12 months pay. Since many police and firefighters worked long hours of overtime in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, their salaries for the past year reached a level many fear they may not see again.

Schumer said he hoped to change the pension plan so that police and firefighters would be entitled to a pension equal to 50 percent of their highest salary over the past five years.