By Stephen J. Kotz
A three-member arbitration panel this week has ordered that Sag Harbor Village police officers receive retroactive 2.5-percent raises, covering the period from June 2011 to June 2013, but also required that any new hires to the department be required to contribute 15 percent toward their health insurance costs.
In their final offers before going to arbitration, the PBA had sought raises of 4.5 percent for 2011 and 2012, while the village had requested a wage freeze in 2011, a 1-percent raise for 2012, and a 2-percent raise for 2013.
The village had also requested that newly hired officers be required to contribute 25 percent of their health insurance costs and that in the future all members of the department share in the burden of paying for rising health insurance costs by contributing half toward premium increases after May 31, 2012.
“I think it is fair for both sides,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride, who said he had yet to read the arbitration panel’s complete ruling and deferred additional comments to Vincent Toomey, the village’s labor lawyer, who represented it on the arbitration panel. Mr. Toomey could not be reached for comment by this edition’s deadline on Wednesday.
Although Mayor Gilbride said the village sought a lower pay hike, he said the panel’s ruling marked the first time in New York State that arbitrators had required police officers be required to contribute to their insurance costs.
Officer Pat Milazzo, the president of the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association, could not be reached for comment by this paper’s deadline on Wednesday.
State law limits an arbitration panel’s rulings to two years, said Fred W. Thiele Jr., the village attorney, so the deal will only cover the two-year period ending June 30, 2013, which means both sides are back to square one.
“We will continue to negotiate,” said Mr. Gilbride. “The process starts again.”
The mayor has had a stormy relationship with the department in the past, over staffing levels and even threatened at one time to disband the department, citing its rising costs.
Although relations between the police and the mayor have been testy in recent years, Mr. Thiele said he thought the arbitration panel’s ruling gave both sides an opportunity to turn the page.
“This is an opportunity for a reset between the PBA and the village,” he said. “Now that you have an award from an arbitrator with a finding on health insurance and a modest increase in wages, both sides have a better idea of what a future arbitration would result in and may be more likely to reach a negotiated settlement in the future. It gives both sides an idea of what the trend is.”
Mr. Thiele agreed with the mayor that it was “to my knowledge the first binding arbitration where a health insurance premium has been awarded to a municipality.”
Mr. Thiele added that such contributions have been negotiated in the past, most prominently in Suffolk County, but in that deal, the county gave up hefty wage increases, he said.
The panel also provided an increase in longevity pay for police officers. For 2011, an officer with five to seven years of experience will receive an additional $2,475; an officer with eight to nine years of experience will be due $2,825; those with 10 to 14 years will receive an additional $3,925; those with 15 to 19 years of service will receive $4,425, and those with 20 or more years of experience will receive $5,075. For 2012, those amounts will be boosted to $2,600 on the lower end and to $5,300 on the higher end.
Officers will also be allowed to carry over up to 25 days of vacation from year to year or for future pay.