On Tuesday, June 29, the town of Tisbury will hold a special town meeting to seek the passage of two separate, but related spending articles concerning the town’s collective bargaining agreement with the Tisbury police union. The details of the collective bargaining agreement were the result of a Joint Labor Management Committee arbitration award, which both the town and the police union agree is a fair and equitable resolution. The town of Tisbury and union encourage Tisbury residents to attend the special town meeting and support the passage of these two articles.
At Tisbury’s annual town meeting in April, these two articles were presented as a singular article requiring a Proposition 2 1/2 override which received support at town meeting, but was defeated when placed on the ballot. It is our belief that defeat came as a result of failure in educating the voting public as to details of the article. As a result of internal town discussions and a meeting held with the police union employees after the article’s defeat, the town discovered viable funding alternatives and made the decision to present the initial annual town meeting article as two separate funding articles at the special town meeting.
The first article involves an amount of $125,000 to fund the arbitration award relative to the three-year police union contract set to expire on June 30. The second involves an amount of $100,000 to provide funding for police compensation increases established by the arbitration award for fiscal year 2011 beginning July 1. Voters must understand that this contract is for the past three years. We are about to begin negotiations for a new contract, but cannot begin that process without the prior contract being completed.
We think it is important for the voters to fully understand the nature and importance of this matter, and we would like to take this opportunity to briefly explain the history behind these articles. The town of Tisbury and the Tisbury police union began contract negotiations for a three-year agreement in 2007, shortly after the prior three-year contract had expired. Both the town and the union negotiated in good faith, but were unable to come to a mutually agreeable contract. In order to obtain resolution of this negotiation, both parties agreed to submit the matter to the JLMC for binding arbitration, a process where an arbiter reviews written proposals from both sides of an issue, and renders a decision which becomes binding on both parties. The negotiations are, in effect, concluded by the arbitration award. However, since this type of arbitration requires a payment from the town, it is left to the voters of the town to approve the necessary funding for the award. If voters oppose the funding, the town and police union can either agree upon the terms for a contract and return to the voters for approval, or begin the entire negotiation process again. In this instance, both the town and the police union feel the arbitration award remains consistent with the town’s fiscally responsible approach to town finances and also provides reasonable compensation to the police union employees.
Essentially the award provides for a yearly increase of 3.5 per cent over the three-year period. There are other parts of the contract, but the basic financial impact is 3.5 per cent per year. The town’s other unions were given a 3.5 per cent increase in each year of their respective contract during the same time period.
The economic times have certainly changed since July 2007, what should have been the beginning of this contract. The financial time we are in now will be addressed in the new contract.
Since the $125,000 figure will fund the financial obligations of the past three years, if we do not fund the additional $100,000, we will be unable to continue to pay our department at the resulting level of the contract beyond June 2010. Lack of adequate funding could potentially give rise to layoffs and/or no summer assistance and result in less coverage. The award is fair, reasonable, and necessary to move forward with our police department. These are the men and women that protect our town and keep our children safe. We urge the voters of the town to attend the special town meeting on June 29 at 7 p.m., and approve this award.
Geoghan Coogan is a Tisbury selectman. This was written on behalf of the selectmen and police department.