COBA Delegates to Vote Again on 7.95% Raise Plus 2.25% ‘Longevity’

By: 
RICHARD STEIER

Delegates for the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association Feb. 10 will reconsider a tentative contract with the city that would allow it to obtain the 2.25-percent additional raises—in the form of two longevity differentials—negotiated by the Police Benevolent Association three years ago after voting down the terms in mid-January.

COBA President Elias Husamudeen said in a Jan. 30 phone interview that many delegates—some of whom were acting in that role for the first time on a union contract—had objected not to the package he had negotiated but that the union’s traditional practice of having them look at it and then vote within a two-hour period was insufficient time to evaluate its merits.

‘A More-Detailed Explanation’

 

In the wake of their initial rejection of the “unit-contract” deal he reached with Labor Commissioner Renee Campion Jan. 16 after negotiating a basic economic package providing 7.95 percent in raises over three years as part of an eight-union uniformed coalition, “I provided them a much-more-detailed explanation of the contract” in a 12-page booklet, Mr. Husamudeen said.

If they approved the terms this time, the deal would be submitted to the union’s rank and file for final ratification, with ballots due back 30 days after they were mailed.

The portion of the deal gaining the equivalent of the 2.25-percent raise the PBA negotiated Jan. 31, 2017 differs from that accord in that police officers all upon ratification got the 2.25-percent “neighborhood policing” raise, while Correction Officers wouldn’t get an initial $365 longevity payment until they complete their fifth year on the job, and a second one worth $1,277 until they marked their 20th anniversary of service. And both longevity increases would not take effect until June 1, 2021.

But the structure of the agreement allowed Mr. Husamudeen to avoid sharp reductions in the pay scale for future COs that his PBA counterpart, Patrick J. Lynch, was required to accept three years ago to keep the city’s costs in line with what had previously been negotiated with other uniformed unions. That PBA pact covered a five-year period coinciding with the end of the seven-year contracts the other unions had previously negotiated. (The PBA had gone to arbitration for the initial two years of its first contract with the de Blasio administration.)

Variations From CEA, LBA

The COBA package has some variations in its unit terms—a portion of the bargaining that is unique to individual unions and therefore was not part of the coalition negotiations—from the one agreed to by the Captains Endowment Association Dec. 31 and a subsequent one reached in mid-January with the Lieutenants Benevolent Association.

The CEA deal, for which ratification results are expected to be announced shortly, extended the original 36-month coalition deal by three months, and delayed the final pay raise of 3 percent by four months to avoid having to disrupt the pay scale for future promotees into ranks including Captain and Deputy Inspector.

Mr. Husamudeen, the one uniformed-union leader whose attrition rate consistently runs higher than that of Police Officers—meaning the city required fewer concessions from him to even out the costs—was able to limit the length of his tentative deal to 36 months. He kept the city’s cost under the package consistent with the 7.95 percent in basic pay raises negotiated by the coalition by agreeing to delay by three months the implementation of the raises in the second and third years.

And so while an initial 2.25-percent salary increase, assuming the pact was ratified, would remain retroactive to March 1, 2019, the second hike of 2.5 percent would be pushed back to June 1 this year and the final 3-percent increase would take effect June 1, 2021. The contract would expire Feb. 28, 2022.

Longevity Upgrades

Once the longevity improvements were implemented, five-year veterans would have that benefit go from $4,365 to $4,730, and those who had reached the 10-year and 15-year longevity steps would get $365 increases upon the respective steps to $5,730 and $6,730.

Those with at least 20 years on the job as of June 1, 2021 would have a longevity differential that is currently $7,365 jump to $9,007 with the roll-in of both the $365 differential gain for all with at least five years’ service and the added $1,277 upgrade for more-senior COs.

There are several other benefits provided to COBA members under the pact, partly funded by a credit they received—continuing a pattern established in the 2017 PBA deal—for agreeing to wear body cameras on duty. Effective this Feb. 1, there would be a $100 welfare-fund increase for all active and retired members, and on that date the de Blasio administration would make a lump-sum $3 million into the COBA welfare fund. There would be an additional $2-million city welfare-fund contribution as of Feb. 28, 2022, the final day of the agreement.

 

There would also be a $104-per-member annuity-fund increase this Feb. 1 for all COs with at least five years on the job.

$3M for Education Fund

And the city agreed to create an education fund for COBA members that would get an initial funding of $2 million as of Feb. 1, with an added $1 million due on March 1.

“I think this is a great contract, to be honest,” Mr. Husamudeen said, noting that its structure protects the pay scale for new members, in contrast with the 2017 PBA deal, even as the fringe-benefit gains, at least initially, have their greatest value to those with at least five years’ service and those who are nearing the point at which they could retire.

“When you put in the extra 2-and-a-quarter percent,” he said of the value of the longevity- differential gains, “it’s almost 10-and-a-quarter percent” in added economic value counting the pay raises.

He noted that the $100-per-member welfare-fund increase—in addition to the city’s $5 million in combined lump-sum contributions to that fund over the course of the pact—would immediately boost active members’ welfare-fund benefit to $1,880 and retirees’ benefit to $1,670.