CAMPBELL Police, city feud over weapons stipend

A fact finder ruled that the debated stipend was not part of a reopener clause.
CAMPBELL -- An arbitrator will hear a dispute between the Campbell Fraternal Order of Police and the city over a stipend called for in the two-year contract that began in January 2004.
The debate, which was brought before the State Employment Relations Board, centers around a $0.50-an-hour "weapons qualification stipend" and a clause in the contract where both sides agreed to reopen negotiations in May 2005 "for the purpose of discussing wage rates only." The stipend is paid to union members who requalify with their service weapons every year.
The FOP has maintained that the weapons stipend is not included in the topics for continuing negotiation. In the contract, FOP members already had agreed to have no annual base wage increases.
Citing its bleak financial state, the city argued that it could not afford to pay the weapons stipend and proposed that the stipend be rolled into the base salaries.
After a review of the both arguments, fact finder James Rimmel stated in his recommendation that the city's proposal affected provisions of the contract that were not included in the reopener clause and that the stipend was not part of the proposed renegotiations.
The city rejected the fact finder's proposal Aug. 1.
Working toward solution
Detective Sgt. John Costantino, president of the Campbell FOP, said both sides are working to agree upon an arbitrator to hear the case, but no decision has been made.
Michael Esposito, a consultant who represented the city's position during the fact-finding, said things would "proceed accordingly" and declined to comment further.
In a previously arbitrated case, which is now set for common pleas court, the arbitrator had ruled in favor of the FOP, deciding that the city was responsible for compensating union members for the $0.50 weapons qualifications stipend retroactive to May 2004, which they had to received.
Though the city contended that changes from the 2003 to 2004 contract would result in a one-time stipend, the arbitrator again sided with the FOP and ruled that the hourly stipend should be paid cumulatively for each year of the contract.
In the most-recent case, the city stated it cannot afford to pay the estimated $81,120 it would owe based on the arbitrator's decision.

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