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Briefings: Action on Springfield Police Supervisors Pact Ahead…or Maybe Not…

UPDATED 12/4/23 8:17PM: The Council approved the SPSA contract Monday night on a 11-0 vote.

Bill Mahoney

Will this four year contract process end Monday? HR head Mahoney hopes so. (still via YouTube/Focus Springfield)

The Springfield Police Supervisors Association’s pact with the city is due for another appearance Monday at the City Council. The body had sent it to committee as some councilors ostensibly sought to broaden the window to charge misconduct. Although the administration has forwarded an appropriation to fund the agreement, it is not clear it will actually advance to a final vote this week.

Technically, the labor pact is an arbitration award from the Joint Labor Management Committee covering the period dating back to 2020. The JMLC imposed it on the city and the union. Both have an obligation to support it. Because the pact has a money component, the Council must ratify it. However, the referral to committee keeps it off the Council floor pending action by the General Government Committee.

Human Relations/Labor Relations Director William Mahoney expressed hope the committee would favorable refer the item back to the body. General Government will meet at 4pm Monday, three hours before the Council meeting is to begin.

“The Administration supports the award and would like to bring these negotiations to a conclusion,” Mahoney said.

It is not clear that will happen, however. Both councilors and the supervisors—perhaps surreptitiously—hope a side deal on changes could still occur.

A lawyer for the SPSA did not respond to a request for comment about the pact appearing on Monday’s agenda. The union president could not be reached for comment.

The award cannot be amended directly. If the Council votes down the pact, then the parties must begin negotiating anew for the period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2024. The city and union are scheduled to begin negotiating a pact beginning July 1, 2024 early next year.

However, there is nothing stopping the city and union from negotiating some kind of codicil or nominally independent change.

The award included several key items, including policy changes to conform with the federal consent decree. Some of those changes resulted in annual stipends for police supervisors. It also includes raises, albeit ones lower than those the patrolmen won in their negotiations with the city. Under the pacts for the same period, rank & file cops’ rate of pay increase is 25% higher than that of supervisors.

Are Springfield Police Supervisors trying to get more raises in through the back door? (WMP&I)

Although the SPSA publicly upheld its obligation to support the pact at the last Council meeting, if glumly, there has been discontent about the pay raise differential. However, pay was not likely to attract enough sympathy from councilors to invite their rejection of the pact.

Indeed, the November 13 meeting did not raise that issue. Rather, debate turned on the 90 window to charge supervisors with misconduct was insufficient. That is 30 days shorter than the window for patrolmen.

Notably, councilors that have advocated for police reform most loudly did not express interest in delaying the contract over that matter. Rather, it fell to others with historically stronger ties to police. For example, at-large councilor Sean Curran, for example, insisted the charging window be 120 days, not 90.

There is no indication that any side deal has been reached. However, as with any labor negotiation, it is unlikely supervisors would agree to an extra 30 days on the charging window in exchange for nothing.

In short, councilors and/or supervisors may want to hold off on a vote on the rest of the pact for now.

Under Council rules, it would take at least five councilors to pull the item onto the floor without the General Government committee’s consent. The contract is on the Committee’s agenda for Monday. However, it is not the only item. A public littering and dumping ordinance is also before it. The Committee can easily act on that while punting on the contract without appearing inert hours before the full Council meets.