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April 1, 2013

GPD union chiefs hail cooperation on new contracts

Police Department union leaders are praising Chief Leonard Campanello, city personnel contract negotiators and the contracts their members have approved, extending 2 percent salary bumps in each of the three years of the essentially twin pacts while also generating long-term savings for the city negotiated in exchange for the pay hikes.

Lt. Det. Joseph Fitzgerald, who heads the Superior Officers Union, and Patrolman Ronald Piscatello of the city’s Patrolmen’s Union said that they believe the good will underpinning the rapidly concluded negotiations augers an era of cooperation and trust between management and labor in a department that had been contorted in conflict in the past.

The catalyst for progress, said Piscatello, vice president of the Patrolmen’s Union, was the new chief.

Campanello was hired last summer from the Saugus Police Department where he was second in command. The hotly debated decision of the city to jettison the up-from-the-ranks Civil Service promotion system for an open competition allowed the hiring of Campanello, as well as Fire Chief Eric Smith, who applied from Michigan and was chosen for the Fire Department’s top job here last June.

“A lot of it has to do with the changing of the guard and working well with (Campanello); he works well with us,” Piscatello said Friday in a telephone interview.

“I’ve served on several negotiating (panels) in my career,” said Fitzgerald, “but this one had the most spirited cooperation between city and the unions. It was unprecedented and cut through all the BS to get to the meat of the issues.”

Mayor Carolyn Kirk said $320,000 is a rough estimate of the increase in police personnel costs from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014, the first year of the new contract, which begins July 1.

In a March 5 memo to the mayor, Campanello said the unions had agreed to drop Quinn Bill salary bumps for higher education degrees and substitute salary hikes that will produce “savings of hundreds of thousand of dollars over the next 15 years.” The “sunset” clause in the contract eliminates Quinn bumps for officers hired after July 1, which also marks the start of the new fiscal year.

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