Fact-finder to enter talks this week between county and its police union

April 12, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

A fact-finder is to hear evidence this week from county officials and the police union, who have failed to reach agreement on a new police contract.

The independent fact-finder, Herbert Fishgold of Washington, D.C., plans to arrive Wednesday to hear arguments and testimony from both sides. He then will issue a nonbinding opinion.

The police contract expires June 30. If an agreement isn't reached by then, officers will work without a contract. County law prohibits them from striking.

Last week, the county and the union met on their own in unsuccessful attempts to reach an accord. Prior to that, a mediator tried two days to help the sides settle, but couldn't.

Talks stalled recently with disagreement on several issues, including a financial package and working conditions for police officers.

"We have differences in several different areas and I'm not going to say what they are," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker Friday. "Negotiations are confidential as far as I'm concerned."

Dale L. Hill, president of the 215-member Howard County Police Association, said: "It's still a stalemate.

"We feel we cannot vote on what the final offer was through the mediator," Mr. Hill said. "I'm not sure what happens next."

This is the third consecutive year that a fact-finder has been used in negotiations.

Last year, the parties reached a one-year contract six weeks after their contract had expired.

"The last two years, we've gone through that," Mr. Hill said. "We have won in fact-finding, but the county executive just snubbed us."

For example, last year the fact-finder recommended the union get 2.5 percent merit pay raises on July 1, but the county executive gave the merit-pay raise on the officers' individual anniversary dates, Mr. Hill said.

Since 1990, some officers with longevity have seen their take-home pay decline between 4.5 percent and 9 percent because of health care increases and other factors, he said.

"We've been kicked in the teeth two years in a row financially," Mr. Hill said, adding the difficult bargaining is hurting officers' morale.

But Mr. Ecker said the last couple of years have been tough economic times for all county employees. "Morale is bound to be low," he said.

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