pay cuts and lay-offs
many weeks of what both sides say was tough bargaining over what
started out as an either-or proposition -- pay cuts or lay-offs
-- the Coons administration and the police union managed to find
some middle ground in which to plant a three-year contract.
62-page agreement with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5,
released on July 9 by County Executive Christopher Coons's
office, calls for police officers collectively to "give back"
the equivalent of 5% of their total compensation in various ways
other than reduced salaries. A press statement said that will be
accomplished by concessions "spread across increased health-care
contributions, [and] reductions in overtime, court stand-by and
the key provision to effect the $1.2 million reduction in the
pay-and-benefits line of the police department's fiscal 2010
budget enacted by County Council, which took effect July 1.
return, the union received a firm contractual commitment that
there will be no lay-offs of department personnel between now
and June 30, 2011, when the contract expires. Union president
Joe Lavelle told Delaforum that he considers that "the biggest
strong point" in the agreement.
The press statement
said that a $1.6 million federal grant already received from the
U.S. Department of Justice will be used to retain five officers
and the 10 cadets now being trained in the police academy.
The county also has applied for an $8 million grant under the
Community Oriented Policing Services program -- which goes by
the acronym Cops -- which could be used, in part, to pay
officers. County spokesman Charles McLeod said it will not be
known until September how much the county will receive.
Lavelle declined to
reveal the tally of votes by which members of the union ratified
the contract on July 8 other than to say it was "by a
substantial margin." The union has 373 members.
co-chairman of County Council's finance committee, said he
believes the contract to be "fiscally responsible." It must be
ratified by Council, he said.
The contract is
retroactive to Apr. 1, 2008. Police officers have been working
without a contract since then.
Unlike other county
unions which earlier agreed to accept 5% pay cuts, the police
union's agreement is a new contract. The others constituted
amendments to contracts which also expired last year but which
remained in force until new ones are negotiated. After the union
representing county paramedics rejected the administration's
request for concessions, nine paramedic trainees were let go. As
a result, union paramedics are the only county employees being
paid at rates which were in effect during the previous fiscal
concessions are covered by extensive contract verbiage which
boils down to a limit on what officers can earn beyond their
regular salaries -- between $44,889 and $95,546 a year,
depending upon rank and length of service.
Under the new contract,
the department is limited in the amount it can pay for overtime
in both this and the next fiscal year to $783,000. When that is
spent, officers will be required to take compensatory time off
in lieu of overtime pay. Such compensatory time, however, cannot
be taken during the current fiscal year. The pay ceiling will be
raised in fiscal 2011 if federal money to cover the additional
cost is received.
Officers will not
receive a premium beyond their regular pay for holiday work this
year. If federal money is received, the department can pay up to
a total of $75,000 in premium pay for holiday work in fiscal
Officers will not be
paid nor receive compensatory time off while on call for
possible court appearances during the current year. If federal
money is received, the department can pay up to a total of
$75,000 in standby pay in fiscal 2011.
During the current and
next fiscal years, officers will be required to contribute a
surcharge on premiums for health insurance. Total surcharges of
$121,500 are to be spread evenly over the entire force, but
those amounts will be designated as 'pre-tax' and not count
against taxable income for either federal or state income-tax
The press statement
said the agreement "recognizes compensation provisions unique to
Bottom line in all that
is that the new contract permits county government to continue
to provide residents with police protection at current levels.
During a series of town meeting-style 'listening sessions' early
this calendar year, it was obvious that public safety is their
Lavelle indicated that
he is generally satisfied that the contract is the best that
could be achieved in light of county government's current
financial situation. If nothing else, he said, it is better to
be working under a contract than without one.
The press statement
quotes police chief and acting director of public safety Rick
Gregory as saying, "The sacrifice of the [union] members
combined with federal support will allow us to make a critical
investment in sustaining and potentially 'growing' our agency."
McLeod said that Coons
and other county officials have been and remain in close contact
with Vice President Joe Biden's office in their quest for
federal dollars. Biden was primary sponsor of the legislation
which established the 'Cops' program when he was a U.S. senator.