Negotiations between management and West Chester Twp. police were much easier this time around, resulting in a relatively quick agreement that saved taxpayer dollars in legal fees, officials said.
The new three-year deal calls for 3 percent increases for officers, sergeants and lieutenants in the first two years and a 2.75 percent raise in the final year, for a total of $603,949 in new money. The contract runs through Sept. 30, 2022.
The last contract ratified in 2017 went to conciliation because the two sides could not agree. Police cannot go on strike, so a state conciliator makes the final determination in these disputes.
Under that deal, the officers received a $1,000 addition to base pay, plus a 2.5 percent increase retroactive to 2016 and 3 percent hikes in 2017 and 2018.
The township didn’t have legal fee costs readily available, but Trustee Board President Mark Welch said he is certain the last negotiation was expensive.
“When you’re paying your legal (representatives) hundreds of dollars an hour, it’s easy to forget whose money you’re spending,” Welch said. “That’s one of the things I always keep at the forefront of my mind. It’s like we’re spending taxpayers’ money, we’re spending your money, we’re spending my money. If we can arrive at solutions without having a long, drawn out legal battle we are much better off.”
Police Chief Joel Herzog said it only took four or five meetings to work out the new deal. The officers and their bosses also agreed to increase their percentage of health insurance coverage from 16 to 17 percent if it is necessary at some point during the contract life. Field officer training pay will also increase 50 cents to an $2.50 additional per hour.
“I think we’re at an age where the relationship between the trustees, and administration and officers is, it’s so good because everybody understands the goal and our mission,” Herzog said. “When it comes time, the union understands the constraints of the budget, and where we’re at and what parameters we can work with.
“And the trustees and administration understands what we have to do to maintain the services and to maintain attracting the quality personnel we have. When you get that kind of collaboration that’s how we can sit down and discuss and come to a mutual agreement.”
Welch said he believes the trust level has increased.
“What I’m really looking at and hoping for is this change in culture that we’ve been kind of experiencing, is going to lend itself to very profitable negotiations, win-win situations for all the parties, at a much lesser cost because we’re not going to be using our legal as much,”
Trustee Ann Becker wasn’t in office for the last negotiation but agreed there is a strong relationship between administration and the FOP. As for non-union raises next year, she said a comparison can’t really be drawn because “those are merit-based increases so it depends on the employee.”
Neither the union representative nor the union attorney could be reached for comment.
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.