Not So Fast, Tough Guy E-mail
Written by APB Staff   

In Massachusetts, the state's highest court has ruled that Boston failed to bargain in good faith with the city police union when it changed how it pays overtime to officers back in 2002. According to an article by Boston Globe reporter Maria Cramer, the ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected the city's argument.

That argument was basically that federal law allows municipalities to pay overtime only after officers have worked more than 171 hours in 28 days, instead of more than 40 hours over seven days. The ruling means the city will owe hundreds of officers hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime.

The court did not dispute that the city had a right under federal law to change how to pay overtime but that it couldn't do so without bargaining with the union, said Bryan Decker, a lawyer for the Boston Police Patrolman's Association.
"The city has committed prohibited practices . . . in failing to bargain collectively with the union in good faith," according to the ruling.

Union officials said the decision ensures that officers will be paid like any other worker.  Under the current system, a police officer cannot be paid time and a half unless he or she has worked more than 171 hours over a 28-day period, even if the officer had worked a 50-hour week during that time.

"It's just a law that protects people who work more than 40 hours a week," said Thomas Nee, union president.
"Those workers' rights extend to police officers too. When they make us work more than 40 hours a week, we're appropriately compensated."

Decker said the city could have averted this conclusion if officials had bargained with the union.
The city adopted the 28-day/171-hour work period after a series of meetings around March 2002. A union representative was not present at any of the meetings, according to the ruling.

"We must have sent six or seven letters before they did this saying, ‘We are happy to bargain with you,' and they said, ‘We don't have to bargain with you,'" Decker told the Globe. "This could have been avoided at any step of this process. The city has no one to blame at this point but itself."

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