Previous contract for police union expired in 2012
Unable to come to a contract agreement for more than a year, a state conciliator has settled the dispute between the city and its police patrol-officers union.
While the conciliator, Thomas J. Nowel of Maine-ville, sided with the union on four of the seven outstanding issues, the city won the two big ones — salaries and keeping in place a requirement that new hires take 12 years to reach the top of the pay scale.
“Overall, we’re happy with the decision,” said Mayor John A. McNally. “Police men and women have a very difficult job, but you have to be mindful of what we can afford down the road.”
The union has been working without a contract since Nov. 30, 2012.
A nonbinding fact-finder’s report was rejected in January by the union and city council. That led to a binding decision from Nowel.
“I have mixed thoughts” on the decision, said Mike Anderson, Youngstown Patrolmen’s Association president. “I’m slightly disappointed in the things we lost, but it’s not a total loss. Our union was reasonable in our proposal.”
During fact-finding, the 107-member union sought a 1 percent pay raise in annual base salary retroactive to 2013.
But in its pitch to Nowel, the union dropped the retroactive pay raise and replaced it with a $750 signing bonus.
The union sought a 1.25 percent pay increase, effective Tuesday, and a 1.75 percent pay raise, effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Nowel sided with the city’s request of no retroactive pay, a 1 percent pay raise starting April 19, and a 1.5 percent pay increase starting Jan. 1, 2015.
Anderson said the conciliator would have likely gone with the union’s proposal if it weren’t for the signing bonus.
“If I knew now, I would have kept the signing bonus out,” he said.
Nowel wrote the signing bonus would be “problematic” for the city’s finances.
The signing bonus was designed to help newer officers, Anderson said.
In its previous contract, the patrol officers union agreed to reduce the starting salary from $38,939 to $30,000, and to require new hires to be on the force for 12 years instead of four years to reach the top of the scale. That top base-pay salary was $54,383 and will increase to $54,927 on April 19.
The union unsuccessfully tried to reduce the time to get to the top salary to nine years.
A 1 percent increase would cost the city $99,397, according to Mary Schultz, the union’s financial adviser.
Kyle Miasek, the city’s deputy finance director, said Youngstown is in a “structured deficit” with insufficient funds to balance the budget, according to Nowel’s report.
“It is a shell game,” said Miasek in the report about the city’s finances, and in reality it is in deficit spending.
Union members will continue to pay 10 percent of their health-care premiums with caps. The monthly caps were $80 for single coverage and $150 for family coverage.
During fact-finding, the union wanted to keep the caps, while the city wanted to increase them to $100 and $200, respectively.
In the proposal to the conciliator, the city sought to remove caps while the union went with the city’s original $100 and $200 caps. Nowel sided with the union.
Anderson said he will do what he can to make sure the union doesn’t work under an expired contract for more than a year again.
The police contract may help the city in negotiations with other unions, McNally said.
With this new deal, the police patrol officers will be the first union members with base pay salary increases for the first time in almost four years.