The Syracuse Regional Airport Authority will pay a $3 million settlement to the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association for lost wages and compensation after a four-year labor dispute was settled by the city council earlier this week.
The Police Association filed a grievance against the Airport Authority back in 2012, after the latter began hiring security personnel from an independent contractor instead of paying city police officers overtime wages for working at the airport beyond their regular duty hours.
The switch came after New York State established the independent Syracuse Regional Airport Authority to transfer management of Hancock International away from the city in 2011. One of the first measures enacted by the Authority was to hire a private security contractor to cut down on labor costs, a move which has since saved the airport $1.9 million every year, according to airport director Christina Callahan.
Full oversight of the airport, however — including security hiring decisions — was not set to begin until March 2014. The Syracuse Police Benevolent Association filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board requesting restitution for the 20-month “transitional” period during which police officers would have otherwise been paid overtime for airport security.
The PERB ruled in favor of the police union last summer, and now the city council has approved the $3 million settlement deal. About $1 million will be paid to cops who worked airport security in that time as off-duty officers, with most receiving around $2,500 each. Another $1.2 million will be evenly distributed among police officers to compensate for the reduction in overtime opportunities. The remaining $800,000 will be put toward pension benefits associated with the additional pay.
Syracuse Common Councilor Nader Maroun said he hopes that the results of the settlement will help both parties move forward while continuing to provide adequate security for some of the three million people who travel by plane every day.
“This is a settlement to try to resolve all of those issues,” Maroun said. “If we didn’t go forward with this, we would continue to pay interest on the settlement that was agreed upon, so we need to get a decision to get this resolved for all parties included. So in the aggregate, and in the long term, it’s the right thing to do.”