OCEAN CITY – On Monday evening, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 10 (FOP) and the Town of Ocean City signed off on a resolution ratifying a collective bargaining agreement for the next three years.
The details of the formal document were released this week. The three-year contract addresses economic and non-economic elements, including wages, clothing and equipment, health insurance and workers’ compensation benefits.
According to the agreement, the pay schedule effective July 1, 2015 for all employees is starting Jan. 1, 2016 the town will pay employees a 2-percent cost of living increase, followed by a 2-percent cost of living increase on Jan. 1, 2017, and another 2-percent cost of living increase on Jan. 1, 2018.
For example, an officer starting out in 2016 at Step 1 of the pay scale will make $41,110 a year or about $19.76 an hour. By Jan. 1, 2017, pay will advance to $41,933 a year or about $20.15 an hour, and by Jan. 1, 2018 the pay will increase to $42,771 or about $20.56 an hour.
On the other end of the spectrum, an officer on a Step 16 of the pay scale as of Jan. 1, 2016 will make $68,402 or about $32.88 an hour. By Jan. 1, 2017 the pay will advance to $69,770 or about $33.54 an hour, and by Jan. 1, 2018 the pay will increase to $71,165 or about $34.21 an hour.
In all, the fiscal impact to the Town of Ocean City will be $25,994 in Fiscal Year 2016, $79,361 in Fiscal Year 2017 and $463,488 in Fiscal Year 2018.
“We all knew where we wanted to go and we wanted to get there together,” Mayor Rick Meehan said on Monday evening. “We did reach an impasse, which is something that has never really happened to us before. It is amazing what a little bit of open dialogue and trust can do. It brought everybody back to the table, and got us to the point where we were all able to come to a meeting of the minds to form a document that will serve the Town of Ocean City well over the next three years.”
The mayor recognized during each collective bargaining process both parties learn more of each other’s responsibilities to both the taxpayers of Ocean City and the FOP membership.
“This isn’t something anybody wants to go through on a yearly basis. It took a long time with long tedious days,” Meehan said. “I hope those members of the department learned more about the Mayor and City Council and what our responsibilities are just like we always learn more about your responsibilities and how important they are to our community. I want to thank you all for your commitment every day to the Town of Ocean City, and your commitment to serve.”
Jones agreed it was a drawn out process this time around but that the end result was acceptable.
“Once all was said and done, it was important that we were able to have an open dialogue after reaching that impasse. Relationships built over time certainly do pay off with that. Trust goes a long way,” he said. “It was important to realize the position on both sides of the table … There is appreciation on both sides that is gained every time, and it does make it easier moving forward every year. Collective bargaining will work, does work and will continue to work in this town. We will do everything we can to ensure it continues to work for everyone involved. We have accomplished that with this deal.”
The FOP negotiated its first contract in 2004 after a hard-fought referendum was approved by city voters and in over 10 years the point of arbitration has never been reached.
Both the FOP and International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 4269 last reached union contract agreements in February 2013. The IAFF is currently under a three-year contract that expires next year and will head toward negotiations at that time.
In February, the FOP and Town of Ocean City had reached an impasse and the FOP’s legal counsel contacted City Solicitor Guy Ayres indicating the membership had voted to go to arbitration for the first time if the city was not willing to reconsider.
“Unfortunately, we are so far apart from where our membership feels we need to be. In 2008, we conceded our Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) … so we are going on seven years without that type of adjustment,” FOP President Shawn Jones said at that time. “We negotiated for four and half days and just weren’t able to come close to an agreement.”
Following the announcement of potential arbitration, the Mayor and Council outlined for FOP leadership exactly how far the city was willing to go on certain disagreements and that re-opened dialogue, which led to the membership of the FOP voting to accept the town’s proposal in early March.
“It is a fair deal based on the state of the economy and CPI [Consumer Price Index],” Jones said at that time. “We are not afraid to go arbitration. Arbitration exists to keep both sides honest. It keeps us bargaining in good faith on both sides of the table. I wholeheartedly believe we would have gone through with it if some of the numbers would have not been moved financially. We didn’t get everything we were asking for but at the end the day it was a compromise that benefits the majority of our bargaining unit members.”