July 27, 2001
By William Van Auken
The state Public Relations Board announced last week that it is resuming its consideration of a declaration of impasse filed by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association seven months ago.
Richard A. Curreri, PERB's Director of Conciliation, informed the city and the police union in a July 18 letter that it is restarting the mechanisms leading to binding arbitration of the police union contract after a New York State Court of Appeals Justice dismissed the city's bid for a new restraining order to block the state board's intervention.
Duel Over Jurisdiction
On July 12, the state Appellate division, Third Department reaffirmed a ruling reached in April by an Albany State Supreme Court Justice dismissing the city's challenge to the constitutionality of a PBA-backed law placing police and fire unions under PERB jurisdiction.
The union's bid for PERB arbitration came last December after the city filed a scope of bargaining petition with the city's Board of Collective Bargaining. The PBA also went to court, seeking a declaration that both scope of bargaining and arbitration issues belonged before the state board. The Albany State Supreme Court upheld the union's position on both counts.
Until that ruling, PERB consideration of the PBA's declaration had been held in abeyance under standstill agreements reached between the city and the union covering the period litigation.
The city is presently seeking a final appeal of the decision to the state's high court.
The PBA has long believed that PERB is a more advantageous forum to present its case for a sizable salary increase than the city's BCB. Also, unlike the BCB, under PERB rules all the terms of the previous collective-bargaining agreement are mandatory subjects of bargaining and cannot be "scoped out" prior to arbitration.
"It's time that the city listen to one more court and recognizes that PERB is where this should be heard," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch. "Now the process is in motion."
Mr. Lynch said that the PBA will argue before PERB that "we are one of the lowest-paid police departments in the country, and that for the city to fix its police recruitment and retention crisis, it has to pay cops a decent wage."