Blooming Grove Police Contract Dispute Will Reach An End Soon
By Edie Johnson
After the grueling yearly reading of 14 pages of reorganization items, the first official town board session of 2019 for Blooming Grove once again dealt with questions about the continuing lack of a contract with the town’s police department. The same reoccurring questions, namely “Why can’t the process be more transparent?”, “Exactly where is the negotiation at?”, “What happens if no agreement is reached?” got the same response in some instances, but additional details in others. The impasse dates back to previous boards as far back as 2014. Supervisor Rob Jeroloman restated as he has in the past that much of the negotiation with the union is confidential, and he must be very cautious about any information he shares.. With the lack of agreement, the issue has already gone to a panel of 3 for binding arbitration, and the arbitration panel will decide on a 2-year contract unless the two parties come up with an agreement before their decision is sent. Jeroloman added that the town had asked the union to agree to release more of the details to the public, and that they had refused. The town, he said is willing to make all documents public, though some lines have legal restriction of confidentiality. On the positive side he said that the actual salary negotiations have been within 90% of an agreement. The only remaining significant bargaining item, he said, was union members’ contribution to health care plans, and the union is balking at the request, while about 80-90% of other unions in the county make contributions. The town has made 4 offers. The union has made 2 offers back. These MVP costs have gone up 9.8 % just this year and neither party wants to carry the added burden. The town is sticking to its request that they contribute. When a contract is finally reached, any difference in pay will be given to the officers retroactively. Councilman Chuck Quick emphasized that police Chief Carl Schupp has been trying hard to get the contract done and has credited the efforts of all who have worked tirelessly toward an agreement.
Town attorney, Brian Nugent added that in fact a lot of the information about the offers the town has made is available to the public, in PDF form to interested persons. Part of the delay in negotiations, he said, was due to an “Improper Practices Suit” that was filed against the town. Arbitration had to halt until a decision on that was reached. Nugent added that several grievances had been filed the past few years, and “While these cannot be made public I can say that the Town has prevailed on every one of them.”
As for raises that have been given over the past year, on “Step” raises, these have been given regularly according to the most recent contract. Town officials agreed that every effort will continue to be made to reach an agreement for a full contract unless and until a binding arbitration order is proclaimed.