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Lawrence's New Police Contract: A Look at the Details

Lawrence Township's new three-year labor agreement with its police officers was approved by township council last week. Here's a look at some of the more important details of that contract.

A resolution ratifying Lawrence Township’s new labor contract with its police officers, as previously reported, was approved by township council last week.

Presented here, then, is a detailed look at that agreement, based on the PowerPoint presentation given by Township Manager Richard Krawczun during the council’s meeting on Jan. 8.

(That presentation, along with full audio from the meeting, can be found in the media box to the right. Discussion of the new contract begins at the 10:22 mark of Audio Part 3.)

The new contract, negotiated with the police officers’ collective bargaining unit, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 209, covers both rank-and-file officers and superior officers for the three-year period running Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2015.

While negotiations began last year in September and concluded in November, the contract did not come up for approval until last week because of “extensive language changes” from prior contracts that were required, Krawczun told council members.

As he started his presentation, Krawczun thanked the FOP’s bargaining committee. “I say this because it’s no secret that I can be one of their harshest critics, but I do think that they acted in the spirit of cooperation,” he said. “I think that they came to the bargaining table with a clear understanding that there was a need for change and I think that they made an honest effort and a good faith effort to help both the town and their union craft an agreement that could be acceptable to both parties.”

As part of the new contract, the police officers agreed to begin working a new 12-hour shift schedule and made concessions concerning longevity pay, pay grade steps, vacation time, sick leave at retirement, and other retirement benefits.

In comparison to the 8½-hour shifts previously worked by township officers, the new rotation of 12-hour shifts is expected to put more officers on duty for all but a small portion of the day and also possibly reduce overtime expenses, Krawczun said.

“This is something that the FOP has been encouraging us to do and, with the reduction in manpower, we think this might be the opportune time to do that,” he explained. He said the 12-hour shift schedule will be evaluated at the end of this year and at two other times during the contract period to make sure there are no “negative manpower or economic impacts.”

One of the more significant concessions made by the union concerns the elimination of longevity pay for new officers hired after Jan. 1 of this year. Current officers already receiving longevity will continue to do so but have those payments frozen – save for future cost-of-living adjustments – at the rate they received as of Dec. 31, 2012. Current officers not yet receiving longevity will be allowed to go to the first level of longevity pay – $1,500 – when their years of service are obtained, but their longevity pay will not advance beyond that level except for cost-of-living adjustments.

“I think that this has been a positive tradeoff,” Krawczun said.

In the past, officers were paid for all unused vacation days, holidays, sick days and personal days credited in advance to them for the calendar year in which their retirement occurs. For example, an officer who retired in the first week of January was paid that entire year’s worth of time off. Under the provisions of the new contract, retiring officers will be paid only for the time off they’ve earned, on a pro-rated basis, for that year.

“So if the officer retires on Feb. 1, they will only get one month of time credited,” Krawczun noted.

Among the union’s other contract concessions are: officers hired after June 28, 2011, are now eligible for paid health benefits upon retirement for only 10 years (down from 15); new hires will only be paid for up to $15,000 of unused sick time on retirement (down from $22,000); vacation for existing officers is limited to 25 days and reduced to a maximum of 20 for new officers; and new hires are no longer eligible to receive any payment or reimbursement for Medicare Part B or D premiums.

In addition, all officers are now paying increased health premiums based on the state’s public employee contribution matrix.

In the union’s favor, the new contract allow officers to use five vacation days as “flex” days, meaning not scheduled during the normal vacation pick process of the police department; in exchange, officers will no longer be paid for the 24 hours credited annually for unused personal days.

“The officers select their time in October of the year preceding the calendar year in which the vacation will be utilized. What this will do is allow for five days to be held out and to be used as flex days so that the officers don’t have to take them in a block; they’ll be able to take them at different times as needed,” Krawczun explained. “A simple example is if an officer needed a day to attend a wedding. The officer, in fairness to him or her, would not know 12 months from now that somebody was getting married and they need the day off.

“Through another agreement – a settlement of a couple of grievance issues – we were able to work out language with the FOP to prioritize time and to also create language in the labor agreement that will dictate the use of time and limit the maximum number of officers using time all at the same shift so that there will be less impact on manpower,” he continued.

(A copy of that Sept. 1, 2012, “Grievance Settlement Agreement” between the FOP and the township, obtained from PACER, the federal court records database, can also be found in the media box above.)    

While there will be no salary increase during 2013 under the new contract, the officers will receive cost of living increases of 1.95 percent in 2014 and 2.25 percent in 2015 – an average of 1.40 percent over the three years.

The officers’ uniform allowance, meanwhile, remains unchanged at $1,600 annually.

As he made his presentation, Krawczun took time to note that Lawrence Township avoided binding arbitration by forging its own agreement with the FOP. He highlighted some recent awards given by arbitrators to other police unions elsewhere in the state – all of which were less-favorable to the respective municipalities than the terms of Lawrence’s new police contract.  

“With any negotiation, there’s give and take on both sides. I think we appreciate both Mr. Krawczun and the police for cooperating together and reaching an agreement. At the end of the day, it takes give and take, and we appreciate both sides’ give and take,” Councilman Michael Powers said at the conclusion of Krawczun’s presentation.

Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis agreed, saying, “I think that the reality of the situation for this township is clearly understood, not only by the council and the manager but by the police, and they’ve worked hard to come up with something that will save us money and work with the officers as well.”

“I want to thank the FOP,” Mayor Jim Kownacki added. “[Speaking] as a union member, it took a lot for you guys to do what you done. You’re saving the township money. I appreciate that, because it could have been more expensive for this township. We’re headed in the right direction.”

 

For the convenience of readers, many of the details included in Krawczun’s presentation are reproduced below. Again, the actual PowerPoint slides used by the township manager are available from the media box above.

Sick Leave at Retirement

  • Remains at $22,000 for current employees;
  • Reduced to $15,000 or the amount established by statute (whichever is less) for new employees.

Vacation

  • Current officers top out at 25 working days, reaching the maximum from their 11th year;
  • New officers hired after Jan. 1, 2013, will top out at 20 days per year.

Longevity

  • Officers currently receiving longevity will have their longevity pay frozen at the level being received on Dec. 31, 2012, however those longevity payments will be subject to future cost-of-living adjustments;
  • Current officers not yet receiving longevity will go to the first tier of longevity pay – $1,500 – when years of service are obtained, but will not advance beyond that level except for cost-of-living adjustments;
  • Any officer hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, will not be entitled to longevity.

Uniform Allowance

  • Remains unchanged at $1,600 annually.

Hospital and Medical Insurance

  • Officers enter the health insurance premium contribution matrix, effective Jan. 1, 2013;
  • Officers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, will no longer receive any payment or reimbursement for Medicare Part B or D premiums;
  • Officers while in retirement who waive/decline township-provided health benefits will receive a payment of $5,000 per year, made semi-annually in the amount of $2,500 each; if the officer can no longer waive coverage, the officer can have his/her benefits reestablished for a qualifying event for the balance of time otherwise eligible.

Retired Benefits

  • Officers hired on or before June 28, 2011, will continue to receive paid health benefits upon retirement for a period of 15 years;
  • Officers hired after June 28, 2011, will receive paid health benefits upon retirement for a maximum period of 10 years;
  • All officers retiring on or after Dec. 31, 2012, will receive payment for all vacation days, holidays, sick days and personal days not taken during the year of retirement on a pro-rated basis during said year, as credited on Jan. 1 of that year.

Personal Days

  • The new contract will allow for five vacation days to be taken as “flex” days, meaning not scheduled during the normal vacation pick process of the police department; in exchange, officers will no longer be paid for the 24 hours credited annually for unused personal days.

Schedule

  • Rank-and-file officers and sergeants will begin a 12-hour schedule Jan 1, 2013;
  • The new 12-hor schedule will be reviewed at the conclusion of 2013, August 2014 and at the conclusion of 2014 to ensure the change does not have a negative manpower or economic impact.

Cost of Living Adjustments

  • 2013: 0 percent
  • 2014: 1.95 percent
  • 2015: 2.25 percent
  • Three-year Average: 1.40 percent

Duration of Contract:

  • Jan 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2015

Future Savings

  • Reduction of five vacation days (12-hour shifts) at $598/day;
  • Current retired single health coverage $13,107 minus $5,000 waver results in a savings  of $8,107;
  • Elimination of longevity for new hires;
  • Lower salary academy step;
  • Two additional steps on salary guide for new hires;
  • No cost-of-living adjustments to steps in current two salary guides;
  • Reduction of years eligible for health benefits for new employees from 15 to 10 years;
  • Reduction of sick leave payout for new hires from $22,000 to $15,000;
  • Elimination of Medicare Part B and D premiums for new hires.

 

For employees hired on or before June 30, 2010, the salary steps will remain unchanged with the exception of the fifth or maximum step increasing by cost-of-living adjustment.

 

Step

2013

2014

2015

 

 

0

1.95 %

2.25 %

Academy

0

$ 41,882

$ 41,882

$ 41,882

Probation

0.5

$ 51,916

$ 51,916

$ 51,916

After 1 year

1

$ 61,954

$ 61,954

$ 61,954

After 2 years

2

$ 71,991

$ 71,991

$ 71,991

After 3 years

3

$ 82,026

$ 82,026

$ 82,026

After 4 years

4

$ 92,066

$ 92,066

$ 92,066

After 5 years

5

$ 102,102

$ 104,093

$ 106,436

Detectives

7

$ 102,102

$ 104,093

$ 106,436

 

For employees hired on or after July 1, 2010, the salary steps will remain unchanged with the exception of the sixth or maximum step increasing by cost-of-living adjustment.

 

Step

2013

2014

2015

 

 

0

1.95 %

2.25 %

Academy

0

$ 35,000

$ 35,000

$ 35,000

Probation

0.5

$ 44,000

$ 44,000

$ 44,000

After 1 year

1

$ 52,891

$ 52,891

$ 52,891

After 2 years

2

$ 61,955

$ 61,955

$ 61,955

After 3 years

3

$ 71,990

$ 71,990

$ 71,990

After 4 years

4

$ 82,027

$ 82,027

$ 82,027

After 5 years

5

$ 92,066

$ 92,066

$ 92,066

After 6 years

6

$ 102,102

$ 104,093

$ 106,435

Detectives

7

$ 102,102

$ 104,093

$ 106,435

 

 

For employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the salary guide will increase by two steps and the “Academy” step will be adjusted from $35,000 to $30,000.

 

Step

2013

2014

2015

 

 

0

1.95 %

2.25 %

Academy

0

$ 30,000

$ 30,000

$ 30,000

Probation

0.5

$ 44,000

$ 44,000

$ 44,000

After 1 year

1

$ 52,891

$ 52,891

$ 52,891

After 2 years

2

$ 59,921

$ 59,921

$ 59,921

After 3 years

3

$ 66,951

$ 66,951

$ 66,951

After 4 years

4

$ 73,981

$ 73,981

$ 73,981

After 5 years

5

$ 81,011

$ 81,011

$ 81,011

After 6 years

6

$ 88,041

$ 88,041

$ 88,041

After 7 years

7

$ 95,071

$ 95,071

$ 95,071

After 8 years

8

$ 102,102

$ 104,093

$ 106,435

Detectives

9

$ 102, 102

$ 104,093

$ 106,435

 

Estimated Costs/Savings During Contract Term

Costs of Salary Increases Only

$ 312,089

Longevity Savings

$ (50,203)

Personal Day Savings

$ (25,132)

Severance Savings

$ (244,941)

Estimated Net Cost

$ (9,186) *

* Does not reflect Medicare and pension charges

 

old and tired January 16, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Gave a lot up that us old guys fought hard for. Hope you know what your doing.
larry January 16, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Times are changing.

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