April 24, 2014

Elyria
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Arbitration next as Elyria police union soundly nixes report on longevity pay

ELYRIA — The Elyria Police Patrolmen’s Association has rejected the fact-finding report that calls for two-tiered longevity program for its members, a report that had been unanimously accepted by City Council.

Bob Phillips, attorney for the bargaining group, said the membership voted not to accept the report. He did not have details on the vote, only to say it was voted down by a wide majority.

Phillips said he will file a detailed notice with the State Employment Relations Board, which will be a public record.

The rejection of the report will likely now send the matter to binding arbitration, where an arbitrator will look at the issues both sides can’t agree on and come up with a settlement to be used as a basis for a new bargaining agreement.

City officials were hopeful the report would be accepted by both sides.

“Even with the pay increases that were recommended, if this is used as a blueprint for other contracts in the city it would not be a bad thing,” said Council President Mike Lotko, D-at large.

The report called for EPPA members to receive a 2 percent wage increase over 18 months. That would equate to about 1.3 percent annually, lower than the national estimated cost-of-living increase set at 1.5 percent.

However, the most important part of the fact-finding report was the recommendation calling for movement in the long held perk known as longevity pay, which has decades-old roots in the city and is afforded to every full-time employee in the city.

The proposed scaled-back approach would have applied to employees hired after July 1, 2013, and called for no longevity pay for the first five years of employment and a 5 percent merit increase in year six. The same merit increase would follow in year 11, 16 and 21. The cost savings to the city would be at least $22,000 per employee over the course of their employment.

Garnering a two-tiered system in Elyria would be highly unusual.

Attorney Ken Stumphauzer, who negotiated on behalf of the city, has said he is not aware of any other city with a two-tier longevity plan. But he also said that’s likely because no other city has a system like Elyria’s — set at 1 percent for every year compounded up to 20 years and 20 percent.

The fact-finding report also addressed health insurance and included a wage negotiation option for 2017, the last year of the contact.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.