When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced lats week that the city had struck a tentative four-year contract with the city's main police union, the news came as a shock to many government watchdogs and political veterans, says the New York Times. The two sides had a long history of bad blood during typically protracted negotiations. They had not reached a settlement at the bargaining table in 14 years, with arbitrators settling one dispute after another.
Over at least half a dozen meetings in coffee shops and other places far from the prying eyes of the news media, a few key officials from the union, the city and the police department met to discuss the next contract. With the economy in the doldrums and inflation running at nearly 6 percent a year, city and police union officials felt considerable urgency to reach a deal so that the union's 23,000 members would be rewarded more quickly. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was particularly upset by an arbitration panel's decision in 2005 to help finance raises by cutting the starting pay to $25,100, which he said was making it hard to recruit and retain police officers. The new contract calls for a 4 percent increase for each of four years. By the time the contract expires, the starting salary will be nearly $42,000, and it raises the base salary after five and a half years on the job to $76,488, up from $65,382.