Arbitrator Rules in City’s Favor on Police Contract

 

 

By Robin Jovanovich

 

After four years at the bargaining table, with no amicable agreement in sight, the State Public Employment Relations Board decided the amount of the award to the Rye Police Association (RPA) for 2009 and 2010. The agreement  includes a 3% annual salary increase for both years, after a six-month freeze.

 

The biggest outcome is that all officers will now contribute to their health insurance. The RPA had asked that the exclusion remain for nine officers whose contracts predated the last contract. Every officer will pay 25% of their premium, up to 4% of base salary. The RPA had also proposed longevity increases based on a percentage of base salary for officers who’d served seven, 12, and 17 years. Compounded that would have meant a 5 to 6% increase for the entire force. The arbitrator awarded increases of $50 a year.

 

“This agreement resets the relationship,” said City Manager Scott Pickup. “The City had to go to the bargaining unit and keep reiterating not only that times have changed, but that we are also now working under the constraints of a tax cap.” The City Manager acknowledged it was a tough sell, a tough message. “The Police Union’s prior deal — 2003-2008 — gave them a big standard of living increase and no givebacks.”

 

Three weeks before the October 23 decision by the arbitrator, the City, according to Pickup made a five-year offer to the RPA, which they rejected. “We were disappointed that the union wouldn’t engage in discussion. An unfortunate aspect of binding arbitration is that the best deals are negotiated by parties at the table.” Pickup added, “I’m assuming this is a substantial change for some members of the bargaining unit.”

 

The City would very much like to engage in long-term agreements, Pickup explained. The City has asked the RPA to come back to the table now to iron out a contract for 2011 to 2013.

 

The next phase of negotiation must include some discussion of retiree benefit cost sharing, stressed Pickup. “We want to preserve union benefits but in the scope of the City’s long-term fiscal health.”

 

For the past few years, the RPA has asked for more manpower. They are down to 35 officers, with one on long-term disability. We asked the City Manager whether the City was likely to hire additional officers in the near future. “During the negotiations, I consistently told the RPA that the City couldn’t commit to increasing manning until we knew the full cost of labor,” said Pickup.

 

We were unable to interview RPA representatives before press time. A follow-up article will be posted on our website and published in our next issue.

 


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