September 9, 2002

September 9, 2002

Cops Ink Pact for Pay Hike, Claim Victory

By William Mauldin
Staff Reporter for the Sun

After working without a contract for more than two years, the police union yesterday signed a two-year agreement giving officers a retroactive 11.5% pay increase.

The union claimed victory yesterday because police would not have to work extra days for the money, but Mayor Bloomberg said the "expensive arbitration" was a "missed opportunity" for police to win better pay through non-binding negotiations with the city, similar to the teachers union.

The police officers are going to come out with less, and the public is going to get less," Mr. Bloomberg said. He said the city could have avoided up to $6 million in legal fees if the union had accepted a similar pay increase offered under Mayor Giuliani's administration instead of opting for binding arbitration.

"The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is going to get to the penny what Rudolph Giuliani offered them over a year ago," Mr. Bloomberg said.

But PBA presidend Patrick Lynch called the agreement a "good first step ... This is significant because it is a pattern-breaking deal. Although New York City police officers deserve much, much more, this does recognize that they're different than other workers and puts us on the road to fixing the salary structure."

Under the agreement, the starting yearly salary for a rank-and-file police officer will rise from $31,305 to $34,514. The top pay for five-year veteran patrolmen shifts from $49,023 to $54,048. The salary increase is about 10%. The other 1.5% is in increased benefits.

The police union wanted a 23% pay increase over two years, a much higher salary boost than other city departments have received.

"We run toward a gun, while everyone else runs away. We need to be compensated differently," said a union spokesman, Albert O'Leary.

The union staged a massive rally in Times Square on August 15 after several newspapers reported that the binding arbitration was only going to give police officers a 10% raise while requiring them to appear at work an extra 10 times a year.

In fact, the arbitration panel never considered requiring cops to show up more times to work, according to the executive directory of the state Public employment Relations Board, James Edgar.

"Unless it was brought up in the testimonial phase ... it couldn't be brought up at the panel," Mr. Edgar said. The state board, known as PERB, was charged with selecting the three-man arbitration panel for the negotiations.

Mr. Edgar said police could expect a lump-sum payment for the extra salary they would have received over the two years since the union's old contract expired in August 2000.

The union is seeking yet another contract with the city because the two-year agreement announced yesterday has already expired.

The salary increases in yesterday's contract were based on the city's financial muscle in 2000, while the next union contract will take into account the city's current financial woes.

"They'll be the first in line at the soup kitchen, but there's nothing to hand out," said a spokesman for the mayor, Jordan Barowitz.

In recent months Mr. Bloomberg has warned all city agencies to trim expenses as the city struggles to balance its budget.

"The city is required by law to have a balanced budget," the mayor said. "The only way anybody's going to get any raises in the future is through productivity enhancements. We are only going to be able to pay people more ... by finding ways to do more with less."