In a meeting described as "intense," Mayor Byron W. Brown met with many police officers Thursday in a push to end a volatile labor dispute and hammer out a new contract with one of the city's largest unions.
Brown accepted an invitation from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association to meet with rank-and-file officers at a membership meeting.
Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson and First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey also attended the private meeting, which attracted about 200 officers. City officials declined to divulge details and stressed negotiations are continuing.
How did Gipson think the meeting went?
"It's difficult to gauge, but it was pretty intense," he said.
City officials couldn't recall the last time a mayor appeared at a general membership meeting to discuss contract proposals. Negotiators have been exchanging proposals, but officials wouldn't speculate on how long talks may continue.
Neither Brown nor police union President Robert P. Meegan Jr. could be reached to comment. Three weeks ago, Meegan told The Buffalo News that he thinks contract talks will be fruitless and that the issue will likely end up being decided by an arbitrator.
One key issue has involved 10.2 percent raises that officers expected to receive but were suspended when a state control board imposed a wage freeze. The freeze was lifted July 1, but Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer's legal staff said Buffalo employees who lost out on raises during the 38-month-old freeze would only move one step up the salary ladder when the freeze was lifted. As a result, only 55 officers who are on lower salary tiers will see increases in their base pay. All officers, however, will receive small longevity payments.
Brown said last month he hopes negotiators can forge a new contract that would make up for the three annual raises of 3.4 percent that officers missed during the freeze.
However, the control board has stated that any new contracts with unions must include concessions that more than offset the costs of any raises.