OCEAN CITY – The City Council and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) were able to avoid arbitration this week, coming to a settlement and inking a two-year collective bargaining agreement.
“We are very proud to tell you the Mayor and City Council has come to an agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Council President Jim Hall said Monday.
According to City Solicitor Guy Ayres, under the town charter, sworn Ocean City police officers have the right to collective bargaining with the FOP its bargaining agent.
This is the fourth contract the town has had with the FOP, which petitioned for the right to collectively bargain numerous times before finally winning a referendum. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement will commence on July 1 and will have a two-year term.
The terms of the current accord will remain in place through the new agreement until June 30, 2013 except what is specified in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which includes the wage table in effect shall be the “Pay Scales of Ocean City Police FY 2009”; the changes in benefits made by the Mayor and City Council to current town employees shall not apply to bargaining unit employees employed as of April 13, 2011, which include the increase to Health Insurance Premium percentage and the reduction of the ICMA match; and there will be no anniversary step or COLA and the shift differential shall be continued to be suspended.
The MOU specifies the following will apply to all employees hired after April 13, 2011: retiree medical insurance coverage shall be eliminated unless the pending ordinance providing newly hired town employees with access to a retiree health insurance plan that includes a Health Savings Account and high deductible insurance plan as established by the Mayor and City Council and they will not be able to participate in the Public Safety Pension Plan but instead they shall participate in a defined contribution plan as established by the Mayor and City Council.
Mayor Rick Meehan took the time to thank the members of the FOP present.
“Our agreements have always been a work in progress and I think the public should know … during the course of the last agreement you did forgo some increases that you were entitled too,” he said “As we face tough economic times and as we pull back on COLA’s and step increases to our general employees … you voluntarily came to us and gave up those increases to continue to work with the Town of Ocean City.”
Meehan said that by the police department giving up those pay increase it saved the town approximately $800,000 over the two-year period.
The mayor added that the process to come to an agreement had a rocky start. He said that at one point the town and the FOP seemed to have come to an impasse. At that point Councilmembers Doug Cymek, Lloyd Martin and Mary Knight agreed to sit down to have an open discussion with members of FOP to come to an agreement.
“Through dialogue, discussion, and bargaining we were able to come up with a good agreement,” Meehan added.
Ocean City FOP Lodge No. 10 President Cpl. Glen McIntyre explained that the Ocean City Police Department chooses to represent itself instead of hiring an outside agency to bargain for them and for a good reason.
“We have the best interest in this town just as much as anybody else does,” McIntyre said. “We put our best foot forward because this town means a great deal to us.”
McIntyre explained that the FOP has 88 bargaining members within the police force. He said that 86 of the members voted to ratify the contract, which was nearly a unanimous vote.
“The fact you can have 98 percent of your membership vote to ratify anything in this day and age I think speaks volumes on where your membership stands and what they believe in,” McIntyre said.
He agreed with the mayor that the process to come to an agreement was rough and there was no open dialogue at first.
“We kind of stood at arm’s length and I think what we learned in that process … is that it doesn’t work, not nearly as well as sitting face to face and having open communication,” McIntyre said. “We then sat down with council members and within two hours, over something that had taken months to get to an impasse, we solved.”
Council President Jim Hall said collectively everybody wanted to come to an agreement and the last thing the town wanted was to be odds with its employees.
“You came together with us and all the cool heads prevailed,” he said.
Cymek, on his Facebook page, later commended the FOP.
“I am continually impressed as to how the FOP members support the community which they work in,” he said. The public should know that the FOP membership has gone two years without a wage increase, cost of living increase and other benefits which they were entitled to by contract. They gave up benefits that totaled upwards of $1 million over the last two years when they could have easily demanded that the town pay them as they were contracted.”