Contract negotiations between City Hall and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association generally are as rancorous as, well, a political campaign between two determined opponents. Since 1994, every contract has ended up in the hands of an arbitrator because neither the union nor the mayor’s office could find a way to get a deal done.
But that has changed. Last week, City Hall and the PBA reached agreement on a new four-year deal that will give 23,000 police officers an annual 4 percent raise. Remarkably, the contract was done without the intervention of an arbitrator, without histrionics and name-calling, without poisonous invective.
Credit Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler and the PBA’s president, Patrick Lynch, for the low-key negotiations and successful outcome. Mr. Lynch’s members would be well advised to ratify the deal, and New Yorkers should be pleased to know that the result will make a career in the NYPD more attractive for aspiring officers.
For far too long, starting pay for rookie officers has lagged behind salaries in the nearby suburbs. The city faced the prospect of losing well-qualified recruits to nearby towns and counties offering higher pay and, oddly enough, less-stressful working conditions. The potential drain of talented young people posed a dangerous threat to the city’s remarkable and successful fight against crime. Commissioner Ray Kelly has understood the importance of paying new police officers enough to attract and build a first-rate department.
Working together rather than separately, keeping their voices modulated and their positions flexible, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Lynch crafted a package that satisfies the need to raise starting salaries while bearing in mind that the city’s finances are hardly robust at the moment.
A raise of 4 percent will still leave officers struggling to keep pace with increases in food and fuel prices, but City Hall could not afford a more generous deal. To his credit, Mr. Lynch recognized the city’s dilemma and focused his energy not on public threats, but on give and take with the mayor’s negotiating team. His colleagues ought to be taking notes. Meaningless confrontation may get union leaders in the news, but rarely does it lead to a good deal for all concerned.
Most importantly, New Yorkers can be confident that our city will continue to have a police force we can count on.