Arbitrators Award Springfield Police Supervisors Stipends for Consent Decree Duties…
The Springfield City Council will consider a labor contract at its meeting on Monday. However, unlike most union pacts, the administration did not technically agree to it. Rather, it was imposed on the city and union under interest arbitration, a means to settle labor contract disputes for police and fire personnel. Even this is hardly uncommon. Usually, one pact for the four bargaining groups—patrolmen, firemen, fire chiefs and police supervisors—go this route every so often.
Yet, the city’s new contract with the Springfield Police Supervisors Association contains a few notable components. The supervisors, which includes most cops with rank and managerial responsibilities, won as many as two annual $1,000 payments to compensate for duties arising from the consent decree the city reached with the United States Department of Justice.
A Massachusetts municipality and the relevant police or fire bargaining unit go to the Joint Labor-Management Committee after reaching impasse. If the state determines impasse exists, each side submits their top issue to the JLMC for a mediation-style arbitration. Jointly-agreed to matters can also go to the body. The panel has one management member, one labor member and one jointly-chosen member.
In its ruling on the SPSA’s contract with Springfield, the JLMC emphasizes that arbitration is a last resort. It said the process is inadequate for a complex organization like the Springfield Police Department, citing the voluminous exhibits each side submitted. The ruling from the commonwealth’s JLMC notes the SPSA’s resistance to adopting DOJ’s requirements. By contrast, the patrolmen, represented by International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 364, did accept them. The JLMC ostensibly believes this had an impact on the city and the SPSA’s relationship.
“No fault is cast on the City or the [Supervisor’s] Union but the City’s agreement with the IBPO and the Union’s refusal to yield on the requirements of the City’s DOJ Settlement cast a long shadow of distrust,” the JLMC said in a footnote. “The result is that neither party is going to like the results of this matter and like any war, there are no real winners, only less hobbled losers.”
That the supervisors might resist including changes the DOJ sought is not altogether surprising. While the patrolmen extracted benefits in exchange for compliance, its union has been the more moderate of the city’s two police unions in recent years.
The final award is binding on the union and the administration. Springfield’s Human Resources/Labor Relations Director William Mahoney formally submitted the arbitrated contract to the Council in a November 7 letter.
Because the contract contains financial commitments, the Council must vote to adopt it. Were councilors to reject the arbitrated contract, bargaining for the period since the last agreement’s expiration—June 30, 2020—would begin anew.
The supervisors’ agreement shares some elements with the agreement the city reached with the rank and file cops late last year. The latter was much longer and covered many more issues. The pact with the which represents patrolmen, received Council approval in January in a 11-0 vote. The patrolmen had ratified it before that vote.
Some of the supervisor contract updates parallel to the patrolmen concerned updated discipline, body-worn camera, recording of interviews during internal investigations. Both contracts are technically two for each bargaining unit. The first is a year-long contract for the period of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. The second is for July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2024.
Both have the same raises for all four years. The arbitrator awarded the supervisors 3% raises. The IBPO 364 and the city agreed to 3.75% raises every year of the agreement.
The supervisors’ raises were what the union had asked for. The city had proposed only 2%. The JLMC’s ruling notes Springfield’s history of fiscal discord. Both the circumstances of the Control Board and the limitations on revenue and looming unfunded obligations receive note. Yet, it also notes the city’s use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for bonuses to city employees.
Also receiving attention is the patrolmen’s slightly higher raise, although the JLMC emphasized that the supervisors only sought 3%. The committee could not award the SPSA any more than that, it noted.
The consent decree placed upon Pearl Street brought additional changes that required resolution in this contract. The arbitrators sided with the supervisors insofar as the performance evaluation program and field training policy under the decree merited additional compensation. While these two efforts are in effect, SPSA members shall receive $1,000 annually per program.
“The City’s Agreement with the DOJ is fully acceptable but the City should be willing to compensate the employees who take on these additional responsibilities,” the JLMC wrote. “More work deserves more pay.”
The supervisors appear to have flatly rejected changes to the body-worn camera policy and the disciplinary matrix. The JLMC dismissed the union’s complaint about the camera policy, which was altered to reflect new state standards, calling the change “minimal.”
In the end, the JLMC dismissed the dispute as a philosophical difference, but one that Springfield has little choice in. The DOJ’s preference won the day.
“The Union opposes the adoption of the disciplinary matrix as an unnecessary incursion on the traditional use of discretion in the application of discipline. The City argues that the DOJ required the matrix as a measure of consistency within Department,” the JLMC wrote.
The various policy changes were the city’s fives demand. The union and city jointly submitted the duration and wage question to the JLMC. However, the union also had five demands. Those for longevity pay and additional educational incentives were rejected. The JLMC largely rejected adding more seniority rules to shift-bidding, but it did allow new language on bidding itself.
The supervisors did win a bump in the outside detail rate for sergeants. However, it only raised it to 1.5% from 1.25% of sergeants’ hourly rate. The JLMC rejected altering the calculation by using lieutenants’ hourly rate.
The main victory for the SPSA among on vacation buybacks. Supervisors with 27 or more creditable years can sell the city back up to 10 unused vacation days under certain conditions.
The full costs of the new contract were not available for submission before Monday’s agenda. The accompanying note from acting Chief Administrative & Financial Officer Patrick Burns said the mayor will submit an order to fully fund the backpay in the contract. However, before that, the Finance Department must first perform further fiscal analysis and certification of free cash.