Who needs a union? Boston cops, that’s who! E-mail
Written by Cynthia Brown   

In late September, following an arbitration hearing that went on for 17 days, the panel ruled that Boston patrol officers deserve a 25.4 percent raise over six years.
Tom Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) called the 17 day ordeal “unprecedented.”  “There were 17 days of hearings and we produced over 7000 documents,” Nee said. The seasoned police union leader, who’s a veteran of many intense battles over the years on behalf of his members, said “unbelievable” and “intense” are the only ways to describe the proceedings.

The BPPA has long demanded parity with Boston firefighters who, in 2010, received a huge arbitration award giving them a 19.2 percent pay increase over four years.

The City Council brokered a deal that gave firefighters a 21.5 percent increase over five years at a $102.6 million cost to the city

This award calls for 13.5 percent in raises for Boston police officers and includes additional money for longevity benefits, bonuses for officers with college degrees, and other perks that bring that total increase to more than 25 percent.

However good this all sounds, Nee said his younger members are not happy about the deal.

“We are not calling this a "fair" contract because many of the younger officers only receive modest increases while senior officers receive substantial pensionable incomes,” Nee explained.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino, went into a rage when the decision was announced. “The package will cost taxpayers $80 million over six years,” he railed. “It’s unreal. This contract will set an unsustainable precedent and doom future contract talks. It’s too expensive. It continues a pattern of awards that are too expensive. Public safety unions have no reason to negotiate us with us in good faith and settle contracts voluntarily because arbitrators have proven that they will always give them more.”

Funding for the $80 million award must still be approved by the City Council. If the council rejects the award, both parties would return to the bargaining table.

“The raise will give Boston cops’ parity with firefighters,” Nee said. “Since 2010 the starting pay for firefighters has been more than our guys. We were never not going to fight that.”

Thirty of Boston’s employee unions have agreed to six-year contracts with raises worth just over 12 percent including the Boston Teachers Union, the city’s largest union with 7,700 members.

The patrol officers’ contract expired in 2010. After 24 negotiating sessions, the contract went to arbitration before a three-member panel. Once the arbitration award is official, the mayor’s office is required to endorse it and send it to the City Council, which must vote on whether to fund the contract.

The city’s other police unions have been nervously waiting for the decision.

“They’re the biggest union in the city out of the four police unions, and they carry the most weight,” said an official with the superior officers union off the record. “Historically, whatever the patrol officers get, we all get.”

The official said that the unions representing detectives and superior officers still need to negotiate other issues in their contracts. But the largest point of contention - salary increases, typically reflects what patrol officers receive.

In 2010, Michael Ross was council president and he threatened to reject the firefighters’ award, forcing the union to return to the bargaining table. Firefighters ultimately received a deal that included raises worth more than 17 percent over five years and a bump on the last day of the contract that amounted to raises worth 21.5 percent.

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