Baltimore police union calls for arbitrator Talks stall on raises, sick leave, holidays

November 26, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The union representing Baltimore police officers has demanded an independent arbitrator to resolve an 11-month contract dispute and may call for a no-confidence vote against the police commissioner.

Although both sides continued to talk yesterday, the union called for outside help at a meeting Friday when talks stalled on pay raises, sick leave and floating holidays.

"I honestly believe we were very close to having a deal that satisfied everybody's concerns," said Officer Gary McLhinney, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. "The city was unable to deliver."

Col. Joseph R. Bolesta, chief of the human resources bureau and lead contract negotiator for the Police Department, agreed that the dispute is heading toward arbitration.

"The department obviously feels as though our police officers and supervisors are in dire need of a pay raise," Bolesta said. "But we are also sensitive to the city's fiscal plight."

McLhinney, citing a gag order agreed to by both sides, refused to comment on specifics. But he said city negotiators Friday "withdrew any offers they made before. They obviously were not negotiating in good faith."

The union representing 3,200 officers was to hold a meeting last night and decide whether to call for a no-confidence vote against Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier. "[Frazier] says all the right things, but when it comes time to deliver, he does nothing," McLhinney said.

According to union newsletters handed out to officers, the department's proposal does not include a pay raise. In 1994, officers approved a two-year contract with a 5 percent raise for 1995 and 3.5 percent for 1996.

The newsletters also say the department wants to eliminate leave days and end the unlimited medical leave policy, one of the most liberal in the country. Officers get five floating leave days each year. They were given to officers five years ago in lieu of a pay raise, which the city had promised.

Melvin Harris, the city labor commissioner who is representing City Hall at the talks, would not comment on specific proposals and said he was not aware that the union called for an independent arbitrator. "We are continuing discussions," he said. are in the process of discussing what both sides can do."

But Harris did say that both sides "have different opinions on some issues. We have an interest in giving our police officers a raise. The question is when can we do it? For fiscal 1997, no. We are not offering a raise in fiscal '97 to any group."

McLhinney has compiled a list of big-city police departments from the East Coast and Midwest that shows Baltimore among the lowest in terms of pay: A new Baltimore officer earns about $25,000 a year, nearly $5,000 below average -- a trend that remains constant up the seniority scale.

Starting police salary in Philadelphia is about $26,000; in Washington it is nearly $28,000; Boston pays new officers $35,000; and New York pays its starting officers nearly $28,000.

At the same time, McLhinney says, Baltimore pays its police commissioner much more than other top police officials in surrounding jurisdictions. Frazier earns $115,000 a year. His counterpart in Washington makes $90,000; the chief in Baltimore County earns $95,000.

"We realize the financial condition of the city of Baltimore," McLhinney said. "Yet their priorities are all screwed up. Obviously, the workers are not one of their priorities."

Bolesta said police commanders have searched for ways to get officers more money, but he said talks "so far have not proven fruitful." He did not dispute McLhinney's numbers. "We are right at the bottom of the list," he said.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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