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Editor's Voice: New police contract is not such a bad deal

Posted 10/1/13

 

Middletown Borough is upset with a recent arbitration ruling that gives its police a new contract, apparently with terms the borough finds too generous.Not surprisingly, the three-member arbitration panel was split: The member appointed …

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Editor's Voice: New police contract is not such a bad deal

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Still, the new contract does seem to take the borough’s financial plight into account. Neutral arbitrator Walt De Treux, an attorney who is part of the American Arbitration Association, acknowledged in his decision that Middletown is experiencing “serious financial circumstances.’’ But, he wrote, police officers have seen their workload increase as the number of full-time officers has decreased. “It cannot be seriously disputed that they earn each dollar they make and every benefit to which they are entitled,’’ he said in his decision.

His decision is clear: If a borough like Middletown wants to provide police protection to its constituents, it had better be prepared to pay police officers a decent wage.

Regardless of your position on the matter, the new contract does seem to give the borough an opportunity to demand concessions if its financial woes continue. Under the new contract, police will see an increase of about 4 percent in 2014 and nothing in 2013 – with the contract to be reopened to determine terms in 2015 and 2016. Wages could indeed be frozen then, too, or co-payments could become reality. If Middletown’s financial problems continue, there is an opportunity to address the issue in the police contract.

Meanwhile, the borough did earn some improvements: The new contract reduces long-observed longevity payments to officers, and appears to increase the deductible that officers pay under their health insurance to $2,500. Also, the borough was given the right to replace the current insurance with a comparable health insurance if premiums for the current plan rise substantially. The borough, indeed, made progress in this decision.

It is interesting to note that one of the reforms the borough is pushing is greater transparency of the arbitration process. The Press And Journal attempted to attend an arbitration hearing in February – the police union’s solicitor agreed, the neutral arbitrator agreed, but the borough’s solicitor rejected the request, so we were barred from the proceeding. If you’re for transparency, your actions should show it.


 

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