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Labor Contracts to Save Borough More Than $1M

Police and DPW unions negotiated to save taxpayers money without losing a single job.

Chatham Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano said the new contracts for and employees, approved Tuesday by the Chatham Borough Council, will collectively save the borough more than $1 million over the next four years.

"I have to compliment our two groups," Falzarano said. "We accomplished all of these negotiations ..with no attorneys involved, so the borough saved money there as well."

Both groups will begin paying into their pension and health benefits under the legislation , phased in over the four-year life of the contract. The contributions were not effective earlier because the employees were still under a labor agreement with the borough.

In addition, the Chatham Borough Department of Public Works (DPW) employees made the following changes from their last contract:

  • The probationary period for new hires increased from 120 days to one year. Probationary employees receive a lower salary than full employees, Falzarano said, "so there's a cost benefit there."
  • If employees are called into work within one hour of their normal starting time, they will be paid at a premium rate. Under the last contract, the premium rate went into effect if employees were called in within two hours of their start time.
  • Employees agreed to work certain holidays at time-and-a-half instead of double time. Under past contracts, employees were paid double-time if they had to work on any holiday. The affected holidays are George Washington's birthday, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Columbus Day and floating holidays.
  • Overall salary increases of 2 percent do not go into effect until July 1 under the contract.
  • A clause in the last contract giving each employee a $500 salary adjustment was removed.
  • On-call employees will not be paid for the full hours they spend on call. Instead, if an employee is on call for 12 hours they will be paid for 10; if on call for 16 hours, they will be paid for 14; and if on call for 20 hours, they will be paid for 18.
  • Vacation days for new employees have been modified. Anyone hired after Jan. 1 of this year will get 10 vacation days instead of 12 in their third and fourth years and 13 days instead of 15 for their fifth through 10th years. After that, their vacation days stay the same as they were under the old contract (17 days for employees in their 11th through 14th years, 20 days for 15 through 19 years and 22 days for employees with the department 20 years or more.)

In all, Falzarano said the contract negotiations will save the borough about $291,000 over the life of the contract, which spans from Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2015.

Bob Venezia, the head of the DPW, said he thought negotiations "went well. I think all the personnel are aware of today's environment, the way things are. ... The No. 1 thing is there's no one being laid off and we're going to continue to function."

The PBA contract, also approved Tuesday by the council, makes similar concessions. It spans the same time period as the DPW contract, and will save the borough about $815,000.

Specifically, the PBA contract includes the following changes from the previous agreement:

  • First salary increase is 1.5 percent for the first year, then 2 percent, not effective until July 1 of each year.
  • A clause allowing for salary adjustments for top positions in the department of approximately $1,400 was removed. "That was there to have them reach a parity with other departments in the county," Falzarano said. "The department recognizes they are receiving [a competitive salary, so] they agreed to remove it."
  • Several ranks are added, including a second sergeant level. The department is looking at potentially three new sergeants this year, plus a third new patrolman on top of the two patrolmen sworn in at the council's reorganization meeting Tuesday. Employees hired after Jan. 1 will go through 10 levels of rank promotions instead of the six that existed prevously."What that does for us, it brings in any new [employees or sergeants] in at a lower base salary for a [time] instead of moving them up to the top pay," Falzarano said.
  • Officers assigned to the detective bureau used to receive the full salary of the next rank. Under the new contract, they will be paid at half the difference between the top patrolman rank and the second sergeant rank.
  • Stipends for detectives were reduced by half.
  • Probationary officers hired after Jan. 1 begin at a lower base salary.
  • An educational incentive program which paid for books and fees for any police officer pursuing an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree is no longer available for new employees.
  • The sick time bank has been reduced from 90 days to 78 for employees who have been with the department over 25 years. An employee may donate their sick days to another officer, but then the new number of sick days is permanently adjusted accordingly.

"This was a very important contract [because of] those reductions," Falzarano said.

Police Chief Philip J. Crosson said the department tried to make adjustments that helped the borough.

"The guys were very understanding in light of the economic times," he said. "We worked hard to keep in mind the community's needs and the economic times facing the borough. I think they tried to find creative ways to serve both sides."

Crosson, Falzarano and Venezia all said negotiations were amicable and handled fairly and competently on all sides.

"It's good all the way around for everyone," Venezia said.

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