By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
Sharon police say contract negotiations are at a standstill but they weren’t able on Thursday to get city council involved in talks to replace the agreement that runs out Dec. 31.
Sgt. Jeffrey Wiscott, president of Rose of Sharon Lodge 3, Fraternal Order of Police, appeared at the council workshop with patrolman Ryan Chmura, vice president of the union that represents 26 city policemen.
“We appear to be at an impasse and we believe it’s time for everyone to sit down in one room,” Wiscott said. “There are only about seven weeks left in the year and I don’t think we are much further along than we were in June.”
A contract that expired in 2010 was replaced with a three-year agreement worked out with the help of an arbitrator to cover 2011-13.
Wiscott briefly outlined terms being discussed in the proposal that would run from 2014 through 2017.
It calls for raises over that time of 2è percent next year, followed by increases of 2 percent, 2è percent and 2 percent.
Wiscott said police, who pay 10 percent of the premium cost for health insurance, are being asked to pay an increase of 1è percent next year, followed by 1 percent, 1è and 1 percent.
That would make policemen’s share of health insurance premiums 15 percent in 2017.
City Manager Scott Andrejchak, who didn’t address the contract discussion during the Thursday meeting, said Friday that firefighters and employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union are on track to pay 15 percent of health insurance premiums. So are nonunion and management city employees.
Wiscott said the FOP wants those costs capped for police at $80 per pay period.
He added that the union wants the city to pay health insurance costs for surviving spouses of police who may be killed while on duty.
In addition to any negotiated wage increase, police want to reinstate longevity pay – a $100 payment for each year of service up to 20 years or $2,000 for employees hired from Jan. 1, 2008, onward.
That benefit was negotiated out of an earlier contract.
Wiscott added that it’s up to the city to make an offer on unresolved issues and to submit a comprehensive proposal for union members to vote on.
He and Chmura came before council in an effort to move talks forward, he said.
“There’s either trouble with the message council is getting or how that message is getting to you,” Wiscott said without naming Andrejchak as the messenger.
“We appreciate hearing from you but you will have to negotiate with the city manager,” Ed Palanski, council vice president, said. “The city charter requires that.”
Councilmen Ed James and Tom Burke – a former police chief – didn’t talk about the negotiations. Neither did Councilman Frank Connelly, who was participating in the meeting by phone. Council President Vic Heutsche was absent.
After the meeting, Wiscott said police favor a negotiated contract but that possibility may be slipping out of reach with only about seven weeks left in the year.
“Our membership wants to negotiate a settlement; that’s our preference,” he said. “All we want to know is whether that’s possible or whether we should be preparing for arbitration.”
Andrejchak said no further meetings had been scheduled but that he had told Wiscott earlier by email that he is available for further negotiations.
“Negotiations are ongoing and that’s really all I have to say at this point,” Andrejchak said.