July 2, 2016
By RICHARD STEIER
|PATRICK J. LYNCH: Restore a sense of fairness|
Here we go again.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association June 28 asked the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to declare an impasse in its contract bargaining with the de Blasio administration, setting the stage for a fifth arbitration out of six wage contracts during the 17-year tenure of union President Patrick J. Lynch.
Will Pattern Still Hold?
The move, if approved by PERB, would initially lead to the appointment of a mediator to see whether the gap between the two sides could be bridged through continued negotiation. A union spokesman had said last November, two days before an unfavorable arbitration ruling was finalized, that either the city would offer the union a “market rate” that raised officers’ salaries based on what was paid in other jurisdictions or the two sides would wind up back before PERB.
Once that arbitration ruling was issued last Nov. 13 upholding the city’s argument that it would be disruptive of the collective-bargaining process to give Police Officers raises in excess of the two 1-percent hikes other uniformed workers had received in the first two years of seven-year contracts, it reinforced the administration’s determination to protect the pattern created by the final five years of its deals with those other unions.
Those contracts over that period provided additional raises totaling 9 percent. Mr. Lynch has contended that his members should not be bound by such a pattern, and that it would place them even further behind cops in neighboring jurisdictions when it came to compensation from salary and related benefits including longevity pay and shift differentials.
Returning to the harsh words he has often employed toward the city’s chief executive, Mr. Lynch said in a statement, “This is just another example of Mayor de Blasio and his administration not appropriately supporting our police officers, who as a result, would leave the NYPD if they could. That’s bad for the city’s future. We are hopeful that an independent, third-party mediator can restore a sense of fairness to a process that has been taken over by the Mayor’s insistence on playing politics, and provide our members with a contract that will allow them to provide for themselves and their families.”
City: PBA Unreasonable
A spokeswoman for the Mayor, Freddi Goldstein, responded, “Since taking office, we have tried again and again to work with the PBA to provide their members with a fair long-term deal with significant raises and benefits—a deal like the ones every other police and uniformed union accepted. The PBA has been unwilling to negotiate, instead choosing to wage a political war and go to arbitration—again.”
The two sides had clashed shortly before the arbitration filing over the price cops hired after 2009 should have to pay in order to receive a significantly-upgraded disability benefit that would match that given to more-senior officers. The city wanted those newer cops to contribute an additional 1.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions; the PBA balked because, while that was a half-point less than post-2009 Firefighter hires will pay in return for that benefit, its members would not have been getting as big a discount on the cost valuations produced by Chief City Actuary Sherry Chan as the new Firefighters got under recently-approved legislation.
Accompanying the press release announcing its intention of pursuing arbitration, the union provided two charts comparing compensation for city cops with what is paid by surrounding police forces and the rates for the nation’s other 20-largest cities.
Better Off Elsewhere
By the union’s calculations, the hourly average compensation for its members is 32.5 percent below that in neighboring police departments, ranging from a 72-percent gap with Suffolk County cops to a 9-percent edge for those working in Newark.
On a national level, according to its chart, once the cost of living was rolled into the calculations, city cops got 34.32 percent less in direct compensation than those in other large cities, with San Francisco officers getting 67 percent more and, at the low end, those working for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina getting 14 percent more. Of the 20-largest cities besides New York, using the union’s standard, only officers in Detroit did worse, with their compensation 9 percent below that of city Police Officers.
Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn, who led the city’s effort in last year’s arbitration case, responded, “The numbers and comparison [used by the PBA] are squarely incorrect.”
He contended that the appropriate comparison was with cops in other large cities, not with suburbs like Nassau and Suffolk county that are not restrained in their police bargaining by longstanding pay relationships with unions for other occupations, particularly Firefighters, who in those counties are largely volunteers rather than salaried employees.
‘City Paying 50% More’
And, Mr. Linn continued, “Basically the national cities pay on average $120,000 total cost” for each Police Officer. “We pay $178,000 total cost. I don’t think there is any fair question that the city pays well above the national cities’ cost.”
The chairman of last year’s arbitration panel, Howard Edelman, shared the view that the national cities were the more-apt comparison for city Police Officer pay. The union was so angered by his ruling that it held an early-morning protest outside his Upper East Side apartment building and ran a series of newspaper ads assailing his integrity. But a complaint made by Mr. Lynch to the National Academy of Arbitrators was rebuffed by the head of its disciplinary mechanism, who accused the union of trying to use the process as a “cudgel” against the arbitrator because it didn’t like his “good-faith” decision.
Where the PBA’s figures were pegged to officers’ compensation over the course of a 20-year career, the city’s include what they receive in retirement, including continuing health-benefit coverage, pensions, and a $12,000-a-year Variable Supplements Fund payment, based on stock-market profits made by the Police Pension Fund, that doesn’t exist in any other police department.
Mr. Linn said, “We think that the city’s pension is also a benefit that is superior to [those in] the national cities.
Do Better on ‘Fringes’
Once those items were factored in, he said, the city’s fringe-benefit costs for an officer at maximum salary—which is reached after 5½ years on the job—total $107,000, topping the $100,000 cost related to direct compensation that consists of salary, longevity pay, shift differentials, holiday pay and uniform allowance.
Those calculations are based on what compensation would be as of Feb. 1, 2017 if the PBA accepted the pattern agreed to by all other uniformed unions. The arbitration award issued last November covered just two years, as was required under PERB’s rules unless both sides agreed to an extended contract, and was immediately out of date, having brought union members up to just Aug. 1, 2012. They and the rest of the city workforce had fallen far behind as a result of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s insistence during his final four years in office that the city could not afford wage increases and so the unions would have to come up with savings in order to fund any raises. Rather than negotiate on those terms, those unions all opted to await his departure and deal with his successor.
The PBA’s calculations included what cops in other jurisdictions receive from benefits not provided to city officers such as training pay, a differential based on education, one given to officers who speak a second language fluently, a physical-fitness stipend and geographic pay that, for example, provides differentials to State Troopers who work in areas where the cost of living is higher than in most parts of the state.
Prior to last year’s defeat, the PBA had enjoyed some success—mainly for incumbent officers—in its previous three tries in arbitration under Mr. Lynch. In 2002, an award gave the union the same 11.5 percent in raises and “unit” increases as a coalition of uniformed unions had negotiated a year earlier, but sped the implementation of those payments to the advantage of city cops.
Arbitrations in both 2005 and 2008 gave the PBA raises for incumbent officers that exceeded the existing bargaining patterns, but also partly offset the extra costs to the city by reducing compensation for future cops. In the 2008 arbitration, there were also concessions that came at the expense of officers already on the job, including a granting to the NYPD of the right to reschedule their tours for up to 11 days a year without having to pay overtime.