EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 28, 2012

Lantigua settles contract with patrolmen's union

By Keith Eddings

---- — LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua has reached a new agreement with the Lawrence Patrolmen’s Association ending a 30-month stalemate with the union’s 100 or so members, who have been working without a contract since July 1, 2010.

The five-year agreement with the rank-and-file officers mimics the one Lantigua reached last month with the Superior Officers Association, which includes three years of pay freezes retroactive to 2010 followed by 2.5 percent hikes over the next two years.

It leaves just two major city unions, including the firefighters, without contracts.

The agreement with the patrol officers would increase their annual base pay from $48,877 to $51,352, and cost the city a total of about $300,000.

Union president Alan Andrews did not return phone calls yesterday. Matt Dwyer, the union’s lawyer, said only a handful of the union’s 100 or so members opposed the contract in a recent vote.

The union’s approval allowed the contract to go to the City Council, whose budget committee approved it in a 3-1 vote Tuesday night. The contract goes to the full council on Tuesday.

Only Councilor Daniel Rivera, who chairs the budget committee, voted against it, although he said he may vote for it on Tuesday. He said similar pay increases negotiated by former Mayor Michael Sullivan turned out to be unaffordable and led Lantigua to lay off about 40 police officers six months after he took office in 2010.

“I just don’t think we know enough about how we’re going to pay for these raises and how it impacts the rest of the (outstanding) collective bargaining agreements,” Rivera said. “I’d hate to promise 2.5 percent pay raises two years from now and not be able to pay for it.”

Robert Nunes, the city’s state-appointed fiscal overseer, signed off on the contract. He said yesterday that the city’s unions have gone long enough without an agreement.

“We can’t go on forever without a collective bargaining agreement for police officers, as well as other city employees,” Nunes said. “The superior officers established the framework. The police officers followed suit. It’s my hope we’ll be able to reach agreements with the firefighters and other city unions.”

Pat Driscoll, president of the firefighters union, which has been without a contract since July 1, 2011, said negotiations are ongoing but would not comment on the details. The union represents about 130 employees.

“We’re talking,” Driscoll said. “I’m hoping to get something done in the near future.”

Ike Gabriel, a spokesman for a Service Employees International Union local that represents about 150 clerical, school and public works employees in Lawrence, said he also is hopeful of settling soon. The local’s contract expired June 30, 2011.

“We’re looking to get something equitable to what the other unions got,” Gabriel said, adding his union is willing to accept a few years without pay increases.

The proposed contract with the police officers changes a handful of benefits and working conditions, including how officers are assigned to special details and paid for them, how they take holidays and the amount of added compensation they receive for college degrees.

The copy of the contract that Lantigua provided the council did not detail the changes, which Councilor Rivera said he factored into his decision to vote against the contract in his committee Tuesday.

The city council cannot change contract details, but can only approve or reject the lump sum cost.

Dwyer, the union lawyer, said Lantigua was actively involved in the contract talks, but at an arm’s length through Economic Development Director Patrick Blanchette.

“He was clearly calling the shots,” Dwyer said. “It was clear from Mr. Blanchette’s messages to the union that he was in direct and immediate contact with the mayor.”