New police contract: 13 percent raises, 9/11 holiday pay
By Matthew K. Roy
PEABODY — The police union’s new contract provides 13 percent raises over four years, ensures officers will get to work road details and declares Sept. 11 a paid holiday.
In exchange, police agreed to contribute 5 percent more toward their health insurance premiums, pay more for doctor’s office and emergency room visits, and submit to random drug tests.
The contract, signed earlier this month, expires in 2011 and gives officers a retroactive 2 percent raise for 2007, a 5 percent raise this year, a 3 percent raise next year and a 3 percent raise in 2010. The new deal also increases longevity bonuses, ups what officers annually receive for weapon qualification training and makes Sept. 11 a paid holiday.
Assistant City Solicitor Daniel Cocuzzo, who negotiated on the city’s behalf, said the 13 percent in raises becomes 11 percent when you subtract what officers will now pay for health benefits.
Beginning in 2009, officers will annually pay for 15 percent of their insurance plan, up from 10 percent. Co-pays for doctor’s office visits will go from $5 to $10 under one plan and stay at $15 under another plan. Emergency room visits will go from $25 to $50, and officers will have to pay more for retail and mail order drug prescriptions.
Cocuzzo praised the professionalism of the union’s negotiating team and lauded the willingness of police to submit to drug testing. The new policy calls for random hair-follicle testing, a method that can detect substances going back 90 days or longer. An officer could be tested more than once a year.
"We were very happy that the police were willing to step up to the plate and negotiate such a policy," Cocuzzo said.
"I’m very pleased that the department stepped up," police Chief Robert Champagne said. "It is to my knowledge one of the top half-dozen strictest (policies) that I’m aware of in Massachusetts."
The police and city signed the contract on Oct. 2, but the city did not divulge details of the agreement until yesterday. Mayor Michael Bonfanti said at the time he delayed releasing the information because he did not want to influence negotiations underway with other unions within the city. The city has since reached tentative agreements with the teachers union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Bonfanti could not be reached for comment yesterday. Neither could Police Union President Manny Costa.
There are 100 members of the union. A first-year officer working full time receives a salary of roughly $40,000 a year, according to Champagne. With the new raises, that salary will increase to $45,450 in four years.
The city also agreed to increase what officers receive each year for successfully completing mandatory weapon qualification training. Two annual payments of $200 will jump to $250 next July and to $375 in 2010. If an officer fails to qualify, then he or she is not compensated.
Longevity bonuses also increase, from $700 to $1,000 for 15 years of service and from $800 to $1,100 for 20 years on the job.
On Sept. 11, officers who work will, for the first time, be paid time-and-a-quarter.
The deal makes it unlikely that civilian flaggers will soon be seen on city streets. It mandates that whenever the police chief determines that a detail is required, "only sworn uniformed police officers shall work said detail." Champagne said the language only re-enforces what has been in the contract since the mid-1990s. State law recently changed to allow civilians to work details on certain roads.
In light of the cuts made this week to the state budget and the ongoing "financial calamity" on the national level, Cocuzzo acknowledged that the contract might look different if the two sides were still at the bargaining table.
But he said he’s confident the city has the means to meet the financial demands of the new agreement.
"I was told it could. I would not have negotiated a contract the city could not afford," Cocuzzo said.
The possible effect the struggling economy could have on the department can’t be predicted, Champagne said.
"We bargained in good faith based on numbers projected by the city," he said. "Obviously, no one has a crystal ball. If you could see the future, then there would not be a fiscal crisis."
The new deal
13 percent in pay raises over four years
Longevity bonuses increase from $700 to $1,000 for 15 years of service, $800 to $1,100 for 20 years
Sept. 11 is a paid holiday
Weapon training pay increases from $200 to $250 next year and $375 in 2010
Officers pay for 15 percent of their health insurance plan, up from 10 percent
Co-pays for doctor visits increase from $5 to $10, emergency room trips from $25 to $50
Random drug testing added