By David Skolnick
It’s either back to the bargaining table or have a conciliator make a binding contract decision for the police patrol officers union after city council unanimously rejected a fact finder’s report on a three-year deal.
Council’s vote Thursday came at the recommendation of the city administration that focused on the 1 percent pay raise in annual base pay that is retroactive to 2013. The city didn’t give pay raises to any union in 2013, said Law Director Martin Hume.
It’s actually been close to four years since any city union’s members had an increase in base pay.
City officials want to meet with police union officials before going to a state conciliator who would hear both sides and make a binding decision, said Hume and Mayor John A. McNally.
“It’s not that we don’t believe they deserve pay increases. The problem is the financial resources of the city,” Hume said. “We can only pay what we can afford. No one is questioning the value of our police force.”
McNally, mayor since Jan. 1, said he wants his administration to “sit down and talk about” possible raises for this year and in the future with the police and other unions with expiring or expired contracts.
Before council’s decision, Mike Anderson, president of the Youngstown Police Association, said his union members would vote on the fact finder’s report later Thursday. He couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday by The Vindicator after the union vote.
But only one side needs to reject the fact finder report for it to be moot.
The union, which represents about 105 patrol officers, has worked without a contract since an old deal expired Nov. 30, 2012.
Gregory James Van Pelt of Shaker Heights, the fact finder on the police patrol union negotiations, recommended the city give 1 percent annual raises in base pay to the members, retroactive to the expiration of the previous contract.
The city wanted no raises while the union wanted increases in base annual pay of 1 percent in the first year, 2 percent in the second year and 3 percent in the third year.
In the union’s last three-year deal, which didn’t include increases in base pay, its members voted to reduce the starting salary for new hires from $38,939 to $30,000. It also agreed to require new hires to be on the force 12 years to reach the top of the pay scale, $54,383 a year, instead of four years.
That deal kept the annual base salary of existing patrol officers with four or more years of experience, a majority of the union members, at $54,383.
In these negotiations, the union wanted to reduce the years to get to the top of the pay scale to nine.
Van Pelt wrote that Youngstown police officers’ income is “already well below the average of comparable communities,” and with the other concessions requested by the city, “the union’s downward wage slide must be stopped, however modestly.”
Police patrol officers pay 10 percent of their health-care premiums with caps of $80 a month for single coverage and $150 for family coverage.
The union wanted to keep the caps while the city wanted to increase them to $100 and $200, respectively, which are the caps on other union contracts.
The monthly health-insurance premiums are $666.21 for single coverage and $1,678.41 for families. With the family cap of $150, those with that health-insurance coverage are paying $17.84 less a month than those in other city unions.
Van Pelt agreed with increasing the monthly caps, but rejected a city proposal to increase the amount paid by members hired after Nov. 30, 2012, to 15 percent of the total premium.
Also Thursday, council unanimously voted to accept a fact finder’s report from Dennis M. Byrne of Munroe Falls that calls for no increase in base pay for members of the firefighters union.
There are 138 firefighters in the union, said David Cook, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 312.
The firefighters contract doesn’t expire until Aug. 31, but the existing three-year deal allowed the union to reopen it and seek a pay increase in the last year.
The union wanted a one-time payment of $1,485 per firefighter — which it contends is linked to the amount the city paid as part of an early-retirement program it recently offered — while the city proposed no changes to the contract.
The fact finder in that case sided with the city.
The union members were to vote on the fact finder’s report Thursday and today.
But union leaders said it was unlikely they’d take this to a conciliator for a binding decision as they’ll start negotiating shortly on a new contract to replace the one that expires Aug. 31.
City council also voted to create a second deputy law director at an annual base-pay salary of $75,000.
That will go to Anthony Farris, whom Hume replaced as law director with McNally’s appointment. Farris returns Monday to the law department.
Farris made $83,945 in annual salary as law director, the same amount Hume is being paid.