City, union reach agreement on labor deal for correction officers

By Bill Parry

When it came to power two years ago, the de Blasio administration faced a daunting task—the city’s entire workforce was not under contract.

At the midway point of its first term, a tentative deal between the city and the union that represents its 7,000 correction officers, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, would bring the overwhelming majority under contract.

The seven-year, four-month proposed contract with the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association provides for raises amounting to an 11 percent increase over seven years. The agreement also incorporates the unprecedented health care savings agreed upon with the Municipal Labor Committee, ensuring that these raises are affordable and responsible for the city and its taxpayers, officials said.

“New York’s Boldest answer the call of duty every day, and are on the front lines as we work to ensure a safer Rikers, and a safer correction system,” de Blasio said. “This contract agreement provides the fair wages they deserve, while protecting New York City’s taxpayers. This means we’ve settled with nearly our entire workforce—94 percent—compared to zero percent when this administration took office, reflecting the productive and respectful dynamic we’ve established with our employees.”

The tentative deal, which must still be ratified by the members of COBA, would create a Review Committee to address disciplinary issues; labor-management committees to discuss issues such as uniforms, medical practices and facilities; and a procedure through which COBA employees can request tour or location changes for child or family care reasons.

“This is yet another major accomplishment for the members of COBA,” Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook said. “COBA continues to work diligently and advocate for the best protections and benefits for our membership and their families. We are looking forward to joining with City Hall to create a better working environment and becoming a part of reform that works on both sides. While we continue to face obstacles, this is a good way to start the new year.”

The Department of Correction, in coordination with the Bronx district attorney’s office, will also create a Rikers Island Central Arrest Unit to support efforts to improve safety at Rikers, according to officials. The unit will build on DOC’s efforts to ensure even more effective re-arrest for aggravated harassment and assault of Correction Officers; inmate arrests have more than doubled—from between 50 and 60 a month from January through July 2015 to between 100 and 150 a month from August through November 2015.

“Our top priority is safety for staff and inmates and this long-term contract will aid us in achieving that goal,” DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said. “This agreement is a testament to our greatest asset: the hardworking men and women of this department who will lead our reform efforts. They patiently waited for this day to arrive and this agreement stands as welcome recognition of their daily commitment to duty and professionalism while serving in one of the most difficult and demanding careers law enforcement has to offer.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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