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July 14, 2011 - 8:08am

Police labor contract headed for arbitration after PBA members reject agreement

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, police, labor unions.

An arbitration panel will consider the positions of both the City of Batavia and Police Benevolent Association today after PBA members rejected a tentative contract negotiated by union leaders and city officials.

The 30-member union rejected the proposed contract negotiated by its leadership with city officials that included a 2.25 percent annual pay increase retroactive to 2007.

The proposed contract would have ran through March 2013.

Sources told WBTA that the contract included some health benefit concessions.

"Both parties worked hard to come to an agreement and I think we both thought it was OK," said City Manager Jason Molino.  "It’s unfortunate it wasn’t accepted."

Molino could not confirm the details of the rejected agreement.

We left a message asking for comment from PBA president Dan Coffey at his work number yesterday and haven't heard back from him yet.

An arbitration panel will consider police officers' pay in comparably sized communities, the positions of members and the city, as well as a community's ability to pay.

Molino said this is likely the first time a police contract has come before an arbitration panel since the state passed a property tax cap.

The cap could greatly impact a municipality's ability to adjust its budget to absorb union contract costs, but it's unclear if the cap will be an issue in this case.

"You would think the panel would consider it, but each arbitration is different and each panel is different," Molino said. 

The arbitration panel meeting is held in secret. It could be months before a decision is announced.

Under terms of the Taylor Law, when police and fire unions are unable to reach an agreement with government agencies, the dispute must be decided by an arbitration panel. Other government unions do not enjoy automatic arbitration and must reach a negotiated agreement.

Dave Olsen
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I don't understand why the Batavia Police Dept. isn't a division of the County Sheriff's Dept anyway. That way there is only one contract to deal with, and I'm guessing that would eliminate some redundant positions in administration. For that matter, it could all be privatized and handled through competitive bidding. Much simpler process.
Dave Olsen
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the article is 20 years old, granted. But the points the author makes are still pertinent and the historical numbers are ...well.........historical. http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/the-growth-of-privatized-policing/
Steve Bailey
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Must be nice to be able to reject a 2.5% pay increase!
Phil Ricci
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Because people in this town like their taxes, Dave. Don't let any of these people who come on here complaining fool you. :-)I kid I kid. What this comes down to in my opinion is two simple things, fear and opportunity. Fear because anytime you start talking about consolidation, the boo birds come out and start talking about safety. Mind you, they have no empircal data to back up their rhetoric, but who needs proof? Opportunity because for all of the BLAH BLAH BLAH of people trying to say that my pro-consolidation platform didn't net me a seat on council, was a referendum on the issue. The plain truth is that the denziens of this city have never had the chance to hear all of the options and VOTE on it for themselves. With the way things have been going lately, I'm not sure if it wouldn't happen now, as long a people could see that their saftey levels were intact. But this council is too worried about smoking.
John Roach
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Dave, privatized police is fine for security jobs, but not traditional police duties. Remember, police can use deadly physical force. If an officer has to shot to kill, I want it under the government, not some private company. I personally think that law enforcement is one of the proper functions of government. Phil, as for consolidation, both sides have merit. I knew your stand to eliminate the City Police and have the Sheriff's Dept. take over, but I doubt many others did. And I don't think your position on it was the reason you lost the election.
Phil Ricci
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No it was my winning smile. :-) I think that it's time to put this issue to task. No more dancing around, actually do the work and let the public decide what they feel is best.
Mark Potwora
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I agree with Phil and Dave..... consolidate the Police with the Sheriff..City council would do us all a big favor if they followed this avenue instead of worrying if someone is parking their car in front of their house..Or if someone is smoking in public..Remember all the scare tactics about the fire dept losing the ambulance service ..We would all die waiting for Mercy Flight..Or how about the police losing the dispatchers..No one would have police help in a timely manners..The door to the police station will be locked an if you needed help you wouldn't be able to get any....2.25% times 5 years is 12% increase in pay..I can't believe the city would even offer that..Raises should be tied to the rate of inflation..and thats it..
John Roach
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Phil, I look forward to your being at the next Council meeting and asking them to do that.
Phil Ricci
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Remind me when we get closer to the 8th huh? Three kids warp a man's brain. :-)
Dave Olsen
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John; "If an officer has to shot to kill, I want it under the government, not some private company." I respect your opinion, but that doesn't make a lick of sense. Training requirements for officers can be addressed in the contract. I think an elected Sheriff should always be the overseer and maybe the supervisors as well. Yesterday I was driving north on RT 63 past Wal-Mart toward Oakfield, just before the Thruway overpass, there were 3 or 4 State Police cars parked on the roadside with a Trooper standing in the middle of the road slowing everyone down to look inspection stickers, seatbelt use etc. There may have been someone they were looking for, I don't know. But that function could be done by darn near anybody, including writing tickets with maybe one Trooper there as a backup.
Dave Olsen
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The biggest thing that bothers me about the arbitration issue: The elected officials of Batavia had their City Manager negotiate with the PBA. Obviously, the union members feel they will get a better deal through arbitration. The taxpayers who have to pay the bill will get no say in how much it's going to be. How's that fair?
John Roach
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Dave, parking enforcement, inspection checks and the like can be done by almost anyone. Those are the easier jobs, until somebody who is pulled over gets violent. But I still want a police officer deciding if you have to be killed, not a private company cop who might not be well trained, despite what the contract says.
Phil Ricci
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Good point, Dave. Why is it that we vote on school budgets, but not city and county?
Howard B. Owens
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Dave, don't usually disagree with you, but I'm with John on this one. The government has very few legitimate functions (far fewer than currently exercised), but providing police protection and law enforcement is one of them.
Dave Olsen
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I don't understand Howard and John, why a police officer HAS to be a public employee instead of a contracted private employee. They are still working for the people and following the same rules and enforcing the same laws. What is the difference? Besides the public employee union protection, the state pension and the Taylor Law.
Dave Olsen
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John, a person shouldn't be killed except in a case of self-defense or defense of another person's life. What's so complicated there either?
Dave Olsen
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John: "But I still want a police officer deciding if you have to be killed, not a private company cop who might not be well trained, despite what the contract says." I assuming that you are concerned with the prospect of a company putting an officer on duty who does not meet the training requirements. That would be a breach of contract and should be dealt with legally. What if a Police Dept. puts an officer on the street who doesn't meet the requirements? Don't tell me that never happens.
John Roach
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Dave, Police officers go through an academy that is not run by the department. That's one major difference. I have never heard of any local police officer that was not properly trained, have you (I agree training does not always equal ability)? There is also a liability issue if the private company cop makes a serious error that results in injury, death, etc. I agree there are many government jobs that can be contracted out to private companies. I just don't believe that law enforcement is one of them. Does anyone on the site know of any jurisdiction that has contracted its police functions totally to a private company?
C. M. Barons
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An essential difference between public employees and private employees fulfilling a public function can be illustrated by the irresponsible actions of private security forces in Iraq. Public employees will always be responsible to the public- a responsibility not lost on those so employed. Private employees will be primarily responsible to the contractor, who is then responsible to the public. The difference may seem subtle, but it is not. Ask any public school that switched from hiring its own cleaning staff to contracting out. The initial cost may be less (emphasis on initial), but the level of service is never the same. The contractor's bottom line determines the level of service. ...Not to mention, the contracted employees usually lack a vested interest in the quality of their work.
John Roach
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Maybe Councilman Frank Ferrando can hire a private company cop to police the park smokers?
Howard B. Owens
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Dave, I foresee innumerable legal complications, from government agencies having prohibitions against sharing certain information with private companies/parties, to the private law enforcement firms not being covered by freedom of information laws and such. The Constitution applies to what the government can do -- say, search and seizure -- that seems ripe for abuse when it becomes the duty of a private company and no longer directly answerable to the public. And while laws can be written to address these issues, they'll obviously be imperfect and lots of difficulties would ensue.
Dave Olsen
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So what happens when Batavia can no longer afford it's Police Dept..?
Dave Olsen
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C.M.: A.) you're comparing Batavia to Iraq, doesn't fit B.) So, if a private company's employees are concerned with the company's bottom line and lack a vested interest in serving the public. What do you say to any Mercy Flight employee reading this?
Charlie Mallow
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Dave, Batavia can't afford it's police or fire department now. The people have just decided to run the city into the ground instead of making the tough change that is needed. The only reason the wheels haven't fallen off yet is because of Jason Molino.
Howard B. Owens
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Dave, why should we believe a private contractor would be cheaper? Police work is a highly specialized kind of work. It's not like there would be a lot of competition, especially if Batavia was the only city with a privatized force. Further, the cost of changing companies would be so substantial that the private police company could essentially hold a community hostage. I'm not defending the status quo so much as saying, I don't think privatization is either appropriate or economical.
Dave Olsen
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Most of the municipalities that I have read about online have only partially privatized, investigators, parking enforcement, special events, dispatch etc. I haven't had a lot of time to research this today, but the popular wisdom on this seems to be money is saved through no automatic pay raises, no fat pension payments, more mainstream type of health insurance, the ability to lay off and add officers quickly and easily and the ability to control costs. In other words, a private business without union mandates. A good example of the ability to control costs would be if the city council wants to have police officers walk in the park and politely ask folks to not smoke, the contractor says Sure, no problem, that'll be an extra 35 bucks an hour for each officer, how many and how often do you want them to do it? Then council has to figure out how to pay for it or forget it, instead of just dumping on the Police Dept. Maybe a hybrid is the answer. to be honest, I probably won't invest much more time on this, because Charlie, Phil and Mark are right, ain't gonna happen anytime soon. The arbitrator will force a plan on the city, 1 or 2 officers will lose their job and the can will have gotten kicked on down the street a little more. Desperate times call for radical actions. I guess it's not desperate enough.

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