The head of Suffolk's police officers union still foresees rank-and-file support for its tentative contract with the county, despite its shortened term of guaranteed raises.
Police Benevolent Association president Noel DiGerolamo said Tuesday that he agreed to reduce the recently announced deal by two years -- and reopen the issue of pay increases two years before that -- after hearing concerns not only from lawmakers, but also from his members.
Members worried about inflation, he said, because the first deal would have locked in existing officers' pay through 2020. On Monday, DiGerolamo and County Executive Steve Bellone revised it to go only through 2018, with the raises to be renegotiated after 2016.
Both the PBA and county legislature must approve the eight-year contract, the first reached outside arbitration in 20 years.
"I'm sure there will be some people unhappy because it's always nice to have that extra stability," DiGerolamo said in interview. "But not being locked into a wage eight years from now had significant value."
Under the modified deal, officers forgo retroactive pay raises in 2011 and 2012, and take no base-pay hikes until mid-2013. From then until mid-2015, base pay would rise 1.5 percent twice yearly. From mid-2015 through 2016, there are three 1.75 percent raises.
Veteran, top-step police officers would make $129,899 in base pay at the end of 2016, and could max out at $167,848 with other compensation. If the deal stretched to 2020, that same officer could max out at $201,102.
Critics have focused on that potential salary, and the fact that no detailed fiscal analysis of the deal has been released. Bellone's office counters that arbitration would likely have given officers similar annual pay increases, without concessions such as freezing both the starting and top-step salaries of new officers, and more than doubling their number of steps.
The PBA deal also paved the way for all labor unions to agree to have new employees pay into health care premiums.
"The last time we went to arbitration, at the height of the recession, officers got 3.5 percent annual raises with no other concessions," said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, referring to the 2008-10 police deal.Most lawmakers remain supportive of the newly negotiated PBA pact -- which also returns highway patrols to the police -- but said they're more comfortable with its shorter term."We don't know what the economy is going to look like in 2020," said Legislative Minority Leader John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset).