Bill de Blasio: ‘Our Door is Still Open’ to Patrick Lynch and the PBA on Contracts

PBA President Patrick Lynch (Photo: Alex Jones for Observer).

PBA President Patrick Lynch (Photo: Alex Jones for Observer).

Mayor Bill de Blasio today said he was willing to sit down and negotiate a new contract for the city’s 24,000 rank-and-file cops with his longtime foe Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—so long as Mr. Lynch is willing to swallow the pattern the city has set with other uniformed unions.

PBA members—who have gone five years without a contract—swarmed the Upper East Side apartment building of labor arbitrator Howard Edelman for awarding police only a one-percent retroactive raise for the years 2010-2011 in their union’s dispute with the city, and are protesting outside Gracie Mansion tonight. Mr. de Blasio said his administration was still willing to sit down with Mr. Lynch and work out a more sustained agreement without the involvement of Mr. Edelman and the state Public Employees Relations Board, but said the defiant union boss must accept contracts following the patterns of other uniformed unions, including the other four unions representing NYPD higher-ups and unions representing rank-and-file firefighters.

“We said throughout that process our door was open—our door is still open, to talk about a long-term contract. But it would be part of the pattern that all of our uniformed services agreed to,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters after marching in the America’s Parade on Fifth Avenue, noting it was Mr. Lynch who decided to bring the conflict before PERB.

The mayor noted that numerous of the city’s uniformed unions—including those representing sanitation workers and NYPD captains and detectives—agreed to accept a variant of the pattern the city established last year with the United Federation of Teachers, with the uniform unions getting retroactive raises earlier than teachers and other non-uniform unions did. Even the long recalcitrant Sergeants Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association ultimately decided to agree with the city with some tweaks—the firefighters for example, wanted expanded disability benefits.

“You saw so many uniformed unions agree to the pattern we put forward—and that’s not just their union leaders: the rank-and-file voted for it over and over again. So we believe it’s fair,” he said, citing the UFA contract as an example of successful bargaining. “Every union has specific things that they want put on the table beyond the pattern—separate issues entirely, issues they want to resolve. Obviously you saw that with the firefighters’ contract, for example. And we were very willing to work with the firefighters on issues beyond the pattern.”

“Our door is always open. We believe the pattern is fair, and we’re always willing to work with labor on their other issues,” he continued.

A PBA spokesman, in the middle of a protest outside Gracie Mansion, argued however that the PBA’s case was completely different from that of even other police unions. The union representative pointed to the more generous pay and benefits packages of the Port Authority, Metropolitan Transporation Authority and some Long Island police forces enjoy, and argued the city must bring the NYPD up to a comparable compensation.

“Our members are making less than police officers in all of the other surrounding jurisdictions,” he said. “Everybody is already earning what they should be.”

Mr. Lynch and Mr. de Blasio have a fraught history, with the two clashing over the liberal mayor’s association with Rev. Al Sharpton and over his handling of the protests that erupted last year after the death of black Staten Islander Eric Garner at the hands of a white cop. After a man assassinated Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn last December, the union honcho accused Mr. de Blasio of having “blood on the hands” and defended cops who turned their backs on him at the subsequent funerals.

The animosity moderated somewhat this year, with Mr. Lynch describing their relationship as “respectful” and Mr. de Blasio praising him at the commencement ceremony for the new NYPD class.

Contracts arbitrated by PERB last just two years.

Bill de Blasio: ‘Our Door is Still Open’ to Patrick Lynch and the PBA on Contracts