Police due back pay for furlough Baltimore Co. move is ruled a violation JTC

September 18, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County violated its labor agreement with the county police by furloughing them for five days without pay, and the Hayden administration owes its officers $1.2 million, an arbitrator has ruled.

The ruling affects only the county's 1,418 police officers. Their contract included a specific prohibition of layoffs, but other employees who were furloughed do not have such a provision in their contracts.

County officials had argued that a no-layoff clause in the police contract was applicable only in the event of a "reduction in force."

Since no police positions were cut during the last fiscal year, the county said, the provision did not apply to unpaid furlough days.

Arbitrator Louis Aronin disagreed, saying that "since [furloughing employees] does reduce the work force on some spread-out basis, it must be a reduction in force."

"We definitely feel that it's a victory," said Lt. L. Timothy Caslin, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, which represents the officers. He said he lost $1,000 in pay because of the furlough.

A starting patrolman with a salary of $23,000 would be eligible to get $460 back, since five days off represent about 2 percent of an officer's pay, Lieutenant Caslin said.

The arbitrator's order requires that the money be refunded over the next two years and gives the county and the police 30 days to negotiate a formula for repayment, although the decision may be appealed to Circuit Court.

"The F.O.P. calls upon the county to begin to re-establish its credibility . . . by agreeing to expeditiously implement the . . . award," Lieutenant Caslin said in a press release issued yesterday.

Merreen E. Kelly, the county administrative officer, said county officials have not had a chance to review the decision carefully but that he expects it to be appealed to Circuit Court.

The police lost their initial appeal of the furloughs in February after they filed a grievance with the county labor commissioner in an effort to avoid the involuntary days off.

Lieutenant Caslin said the police also have filed a grievance aimed at reversing an increase in their share of health insurance premiums. Since July 1, police officers have had to pay 15 percent of the premiums, up from the 8 percent.

County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced the furloughs Jan. 6 as part of an effort to compensate for the loss of $23.5 million in state aid.

The furloughs saved the county about $12.5 million.

Between state cuts and declining local revenue, the county had to make do with $63 million less last year than it had anticipated in the original budget.

The county now is faced with a cut of at least $22 million in state aid this fiscal year as part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposal to deal with a $500 million state budget shortfall.

For the beleaguered county police, the decision was seen as a morale booster. Aside from the furloughs, police have seen their ranks depleted by more than 100 through attrition at a time when the crime rate is increasing.

In addition, patrol officers have been ordered to park their cars and walk to save gasoline, and police from detective units, crime laboratories and crime-prevention teams have transferred to street duty to enable the department to keep up street patrols.

"Two-thirds of our cops are working second jobs to make ends meet," Lieutenant Caslin said.

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