By Richard Gaines
---- — 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.
The Quinn bill, otherwise known as the Police Career Incentive Pay Program was enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1970 to compensate police officers for continuing their education in related subjects, and today raises base pay by 10 percent for an associate degree, 20 percent for a bachelor’s degree and 25 percent for a master’s degree. The state had paid a portion of Quinn bumps until fiscal 2012, which ended last June 30.
The contract also saves the city money with changes that reduce the number of unused sick days accumulated by police officers at the time they leave the force. The number of sick days allowed in a year were also reduced for both the superior officers and patrolmen’s unions’ members. There are 12 superior officers and 46 patrolmen.
The contract was unanimously approved by the superior officers and overwhelmingly approved with only two nays from the patrolmen, the unions’ officers said..
Campanello emailed the Times to explain why the contract itself but only the memo to the mayor was available for the story in the Friday Times.
”The information you have right now is the crux of the contract settlement reached recently for FY13 thru FY16 for both police unions and the City,” he wrote. “Online are previous contracts settled up to June 2013, as well as the Memorandum of Agreement signed by both the unions and the city for this upcoming contract.
“People who read those previous contracts can readily see how convoluted they are, how many side letters and agreements, contract re-opener language changes, and other very confusing language changes are prevalent throughout the contracts,” he continued.
“I am in the process, with both union presidents and city and union counsel, of rewriting both entire contracts from scratch into much easier to read and understand documents,” Campanello wrote, “incorporating all the new language, disposing of old or outdated language, and making the documents more user friendly and easy to interpret for anyone who reads them.
“I hope you and your readership see this not only as a time-consuming process, but also as a sign of the transparency the Police Department is aspiring to moving forward. I feel confident that, once the documents are completed and released (which should be well before the initiation date of the contract), that all those reviewing it will be happy and find it much easier to understand.”
Campanello also clarified the reason for a provision in the new contracts that “precludes the city from paying any compensation” to a union member due to shift substitutions” or “swaps” in police jargon. Campanello said the language was “prophylactic” and intended to insure that Gloucester did not one day find itself obligated to pay a police officer for shifts worked in a trade with other officers.
Campanello said a court ruling found that Boston was liable to pay for a large number of shifts worked in trade with other officers who never lived up to their part of the trade agreement. He said Gloucester has not paid for any unfulfilled swaps to his knowledge.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.