Eight months of labor negotiations with the Collingswood Police Department came to an end Monday night at the borough commissioners meeting, as both sides inked a deal to move forward on a salary structure through 2015.
The agreement got its first reading Monday night and will require two additional sessions before it takes effect formally. It guarantees police a 1.5-percent salary increase through 2013 (and retroactive to July 2012), and then 1.75-percent annual increases in both 2014 and 2015.
Mayor James Maley said that the increases were incremental and earned with “some givebacks,” including “substantial changes in the terms of employment for new hires.”
Most importantly, he said, it will give the borough the room to add much-needed offices that it had been “deliberately holding off” hiring. With police negotiations over, the municipal government will turn its attention to closing a deal with the Collingswood Fire Department next, he said.
“Cops are done; fire’s close,” Maley said. “We’re still going to have to put together a tight budget. We lost three firefighters; we’ve lost five or six [police officers] easily, and we haven’t hired because we’ve been wanting to get locked in for the new hires.
“The next five guys in the door are going to cost us what two-and-a-half guys did before,” he said.
Terms of the deal
The biggest changes under the agreement are related to shift differential (i.e., the hours at which pay increases for overnight duty shifts), longevity (opportunities for pay increases based on years accrued) and sick time buyouts.
For new hires, the starting salary will fall 15 percent to $37,500, with a 50 percent reduction in clothing allowance (down to $800 from more than $1,600). Officers will be able to buy into HMO coverage, “and if they want anything more than the PPO, they’ll [buy into] it,” Maley said.
Furthermore, new hires will not be able to bank sick time indefinitely; the payout for unused days will be capped at $15,000, whereas right now it’s unlimited.
Commissioner Mike Hall pointed out that this agreement represents potentially a significant cost savings for the borough, and brought up the worst-case scenario of Atlantic City, which in 2010 laid off a number of emergency services personnel to make up for millions in time-off compensation owed to retiring city employees.
The police also agreed to a 0.5 percent rate reduction in shift differential (from 4 percent to 3.5 percent), the hours of which have also been rolled back. It used to start at 3 p.m., Maley said, and now will cover the 12-hour period from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Longevity was also changed to reflect a percentage of officer salaries, he said, but the specifics of that negotiation were not immediately available.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to the police department and the members of the rank and file for working with us to get this contract done,” Hall said, promising that deals for the fire department and public works agencies are “not far behind.
“We’re moving forward; things are getting a little bit better,” Hall said.
Maley echoed Hall’s sentiments.
“I want to thank Keith [Hastings, Borough Administrator]** and all of our staff that worked on negotiating contracts for all of our bargaining units,” he said.
“I’m just so thrilled that we’re able to get through without all of the rockiness that happened in previous years [which had been] brought on by things at the state,” Maley said, referencing the belt-tightening enaction of Gov. Chris Christie’s 2-percent budget cap, which limits the amount of budgetary increases a municipality can shoulder from year to year.
Collingswood Cash, National Food Market, veterans memorial
In other news, Maley announced that the Collingswood . In total, he said, nearly $200,000 was sold, which directly benefits borough businesses.
“I think that’s a really significant use of the money we collect from these businesses with their additional assessments,” he said.
Resident Dave Maynard asked the commissioners about the current status of negotiations to purchase the National Food Market. Maley responded that owner Shinder Pal is “finally getting an appraisal done.”
“Hopefully we can work something out,” he said.
Maynard also asked the commissioners whether the borough government would update its digital archive of minutes from prior commissioners meetings, and pointed out that the most recent minutes posted the Collingswood website date back to May 2012.
To a person, the commissioners promised to rectify the situation.
“We’re working on it,” Maley said.
Earl Burak pointed out that his son’s name is misspelled on the borough veterans memorial, and said he’d asked the commissioners to correct is back in October 2012.
“I asked you back then to do something better than a piece of plywood,” Burak said.
“We will take a look and see what we can do,” Maley said. “My apologies.”
**Correction: An earlier version of this story initially misidentified Collingswood Borough Administrator Keith Hastings and Collingswood Fire Chief Keith Davis.