Police vote 104-54 for new contract raises totaling 5% likely for officers Pay has lagged behind other areas

June 13, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Twenty days before its current contract expires, the Howar County Police Association has overwhelmingly ratified a new two-year agreement that probably will mean a 5 percent raise for officers.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, two-thirds of the union's membership voted 104-to-54 to accept the accord, said Dale L. Hill, president of the 215-member union.

"I think it's the best contract we could get," Mr. Hill said.

The contract gives officers a 2.5 percent merit increase on their hiring anniversary dates and another 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment Jan. 1 if the county's income tax revenue for this year is 9 percent higher than in 1992 -- something that County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he's confident will happen.

"I'm very pleased that we were able to work something out," Mr. Ecker said.

The union, however, wanted a larger increase right away.

"I still think the county is well-off enough it could supply all its employees a pay raise July 1, and not hold off until the first of the year, and be contingent on income revenue," Mr. Hill said.

For about 25 percent of the union's membership, that merit increase is about half what the officers deserve, Mr. Hill said.

During the last few years of recession and cutbacks in state aid to local governments, the officers lost cost-of-living increases, he said.

County police salaries average $31,000, lagging 4.1 percent below the mean salaries of officers in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, union leaders say.

For the first time, this agreement would provide county officers with $50,000 in line-of-duty death benefits.

"We're happy the county agreed to that," Mr. Hill said.

"It's something I've asked for during the last several years. I think it's only right that if you die in the line of duty for Howard County, the county should pay."

During negotiations, the county had sought to lengthen the officers' work schedules, but the union fought successfully against the idea. A longer schedule would've jeopardized the officers' home life and supplementary jobs, Mr. Hill said.

The union members were in danger of working without a contract if they hadn't settled before June 30 when the current agreement expires. County law forbids them from striking.

The settlement comes after months of negotiations, which stalled this spring on the financial package and work schedule issue.

"Negotiations, unfortunately, put you in an adversarial position," Mr. Ecker said.

"Hopefully, now that the agreement has been reached, we can work together."

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