For the second time this year, the Police Benevolent Association contract arbitration has been delayed by illness—this time on a far-larger scale.
Where the initial hearing dates had to be scrapped because the panel's then-chairman became ill, this time the effort to produce a contract to replace the one that expired Aug. 1, 2017 became a casualty of the coronavirus.
Union's Focus Changed
With veteran arbitrator Martin Scheinman having been tapped as the replacement chairman on the panel, its eight hearings had been scheduled to begin April 27 and conclude May 13. But the pandemic intruded, not only constraining the affected parties from meeting but also making the discussions secondary for the union at a time when more than 20 percent of its membership has been out sick this month.
New hearing dates have not been scheduled.
PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, who is opting for arbitration for the fifth time in seven contract rounds since he was first elected 21 years ago, is utilizing it for a familiar reason: he believes his members deserve pay raises beyond what other uniformed unions get and the city is insisting it will not go beyond the established wage pattern.
That pattern, originally set by contracts reached in 2018 by first District Council 37 and then the United Federation of Teachers, was reinforced last December when a coalition of eight uniformed unions reached a tentative deal providing 7.95-percent raises. The two unions within the coalition that represented superior officers in the NYPD, the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the Captains Endowment Association, in subsequent unit bargaining each negotiated an additional 2.25 percent in compensation for their members in the form of differentials that are not part of salary but are factored into determining pension allowances.
Those differentials matched the value of an additional raise the PBA secured for incumbent cops in January 2017 above the uniformed-union pattern in effect at the time. Although the union essentially self-funded that extra pay hike by reducing the salary scale for future Police Officers, the other police unions got enough heat from their rank and files that matching it became a priority for them in this bargaining round.
Unlike the PBA, they didn't touch their pay scales for the "unborn," but both the LBA and CEA were required to extend their contracts—to at least 39 months, rather than the 3-year duration of the initial coalition deal—and delay at least one wage hike by several months to even out the costs to the city.
While city Labor Commissioner Renee Campion has indicated she will argue in arbitration that the PBA award should conform to the coalition pattern in order to preserve bargaining stability, Mr. Lynch has made clear a prime focus of his arguments will be to note a growing pay gap between his members and those in neighboring jurisdictions whose duties he claims are less demanding.
In the past, this case was pegged to salaries for cops in Nassau and Suffolk counties, but this time he has said it will be tailored to the better pay received by both State Troopers—who increasingly have been assigned to New York City—and Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officers, a good segment of whom are also based here.
The city's representative on the panel will be former Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn, who in that job successfully made the parity argument in a 2015 PBA arbitration. The union has tapped compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, best known for his former role as head of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Asked about the impact of the latest delay in the proceedings, Mr. Lynch responded with this statement: "Once again, New York City police officers are at the epicenter of a global crisis. The world's most-challenging policing job continues to grow more challenging by the day. Right now, we are focused on our mission. Thousands of us are sacrificing our own health to protect the city. When this crisis stabilizes and our arbitration resumes, the panel will have plenty of evidence that our job is uniquely difficult and dangerous."
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