June 3, 2005
By Reuven Blau
The state Troopers’ Police Benevolent Association has negotiated a tentative four-year wage agreement with the Pataki administration that provides 12.5 percent in raises and a list of other benefit improvements for veteran officers.
The pact, which must still be ratified by the Troopers, is retroactive to April 1, 2003, consistent with state civilian union deals in this round of bargaining. But those agreements offered only an 8.25 percent raise and two $800 bonuses, payable upon ratification and at the end of the last year of the deal provides a 3-percent hike, and compounding swells the value of those increases to 12.5 percent.
Expanded Duty Bonus
The tentative contract would give veteran Troopers a pensionable “expanded duty pay” bonus as compensation for their added anti-terrorism responsibilities since Sept.11, 2001, retroactive to April 1 of this year. The Troopers’ PBA which represents 2,800 state Troopers and 800 supervisors, is the first law-enforcement union to negotiate such a benefit. (The Police Investigators Association won a similar benefit in arbitration four months ago for Division of State Police Investigators and Senior Investigators.)
Should the deal be ratified, all Troopers at the Trainee II rate and above will receive $2,575 for anti-terrorism work in installments as part of their bi-weekly paychecks, rising to $2,652 next April 1.
To reduce costs to the state, however, the raises and benefits do not apply to entry-level Trainee I Troopers until the last year of the contract, April 1, 2006. The starting salary for Troopers in the academy will then increase by 3 percent from the old $48,907 in base pay to $50,374. By the end of the deal, base salary for Troopers with five years of service will be $56,696.
‘Job Has Changed’
“Our job has literally grown so much,” said Troopers” PBA President Daniel DeFedericis in a May 26 phone interview, referring to the anti-terrorism bonus. “It’s a dangerous and changing job. We ride commuter trains when there are terror alerts and we help guard the bridges and tunnels.”
The Troopers’ PBA was able to negotiate a 52-percent increase in longevity payments for officers with the minimum six years of experience. Presently, eligible Troopers receive a standard longevity pay hike of $295. Based on the proposed deal, officers with six to 10 years of experience will get $400 for each year of service Troopers with 11 to 15 years will receive $450, and officers with 20 years or more will get $500. A 10-year veteran who would have been receiving $2,950 in longevity pay would jump to $4,000; a 20-year veteran would have longevity pay leap from $5,900 to $10,000.
The longevity amount is capped at 25 years. Troopers at that level and beyond will receive maximum $12,500.
“We had so many retiring,” Mr. DeFedericis said. “It cost so much to replace them. This was designed to help retain experienced Troopers and supervisors.”
Change Cuts OT Costs
In return, the union agreed to allow the state to reduce notification time for rescheduled tours to avoid overtime payments. Currently, the state has to give Troopers a week’s notice before changing their tours; under the tentative agreement, the state can give officers just 48 hours’ notice.
That union concession will help the state reduce its burgeoning Trooper overtime costs. State Police Officers and workers at state-run psychiatric facilities were among the top overtime earners last year, according to reports.
In addition, the Troopers’ union negotiated to streamline and simplify the out-of-title work grievance process for officers temporarily placed in supervisory roles. Troopers have filed numerous complaints alleging that the state fails to adequately compensate them for their work in higher titles.
“We are pleased that we were able to reach a fair and balanced agreement outside of binding arbitration,” said state spokeswoman Lynn Rasic. “The tentative contract agreement, while recognizing the great value of the State Police, also meets the needs of New York State the public employer.”
PBA: Good Deal
Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, hailed the deal, specifically citing the anti-terrorism bonus.
“I think it’s a significant settlement when all the monies are calculated,” he remarked in a May 26 phone interview. “It shows if an administration respects their police officers, and if they want to find a way to pay them, especially in the time of terrorism, it can be done.”
City Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley, however, denied that the tentative agreement would play a role in the pending Public Employment Relations Board contract arbitration for city Police Officers. It shouldn’t have any impact whatsoever,” he asserted last week. “There has never been a direct correlation between their settlements and us. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”
Mr. Lynch disagreed. “This certainly puts us on the road to getting paid like police force professionals, and it also recognizes the value of a safe environment,” he said.
According to the Troopers’ memorandum of agreement, they will receive $9,839 in retroactive pay – counting overtime and other differentials affected by the pay hikes – upon ratification. Overtime compensation will be boosted by 3 percent for the period of April 1, 2003 to March 31, 2004, and by 6.09 percent over that same timeframe the following year.
The Troopers’ union also agreed to adopt the health insurance package offered to the state’s other civilian unions. That means co-pays will go from $25 to $30 for hospital visits and from $35 to $50 for emergency-room visits. Co-pays for doctor’s office visits and outpatient surgical procedures and diagnostic services will rise from $10 to $12. There will also be additional co-pay increases for some brand-name drugs on a “preferred list” or generic drugs.
The tentative accord also includes several other fringe benefits. Troopers assigned to work in the metropolitan area will receive an annual location pay differential of $1,912, up from $1,200. Also, effective April 1, 2005, the overtime meal allowance will go from $3.50 to $5. And the state agreed to supply eyeglass inserts for respirator masks, and to fund specific educational courses.
There are several positions within the Trooper title. Job duties include: patrol work, crime scene evidence technician, field training officer, K-9 handler, and firearms instructor. Some Troopers are also assigned to the motorcycle detail, the scuba team, accident reconstruction, narcotics, and special investigation units.
According to Bill Henning, the second vice president of Local 1180 of the Communications Workers of America, the deal will have far-reaching effects. “Nobody swims in a pond by themselves,” he said. Everything that happens has an effect on the collective bargaining of other similar public-service organizations.”
Darcy Wells, a spokeswomen for the Public Employees’ Federation, said the Trooper deal may make negotiations harder next round for the states’ second-largest public-employee union. “We are encouraged seeing a solid contract that the State Troopers are getting,” she said. “When our contract is up for negotiations, it’s going to be difficult. If the state says that these funds are available, they should also be available for our members as well.”