Thursday, February 28, 2002
WARREN -- An arbitrator will decide in about three weeks what is fair compensation for city patrol officers.
Contract talks broke off Jan. 11 after the city and union were unsuccessful in settling after a last-ditch effort.
A three-year contract for the 42-member union, the Ohio Patrolman's Benevolent Association, expired in December 1999.
Gary Cicero, the city's personnel director, said a hearing was Wednesday, when both sides presented their cases. He declined to discuss specifics.
The arbitrator, Amherst attorney Jonathan Dworkin, will now make a binding decision.
Wage freeze: A one-year contract was approved in 2000, and police and other employees took a one-year wage freeze during the city's fiscal mess. Negotiations began in 2001.
A fact finder from the State Employee Relations Board reported in September that police should get 4.5 percent raises in 2001, 2002 and 2003, in addition to having the city pick up a percentage of the employees' shares toward their pensions.
Counteroffer: That pact would have cost an estimated $800,000, city officials have said. To counter, the city offered raises of 4 percent the first two years and 3 percent the third year.
The city, however, says it also can't afford to pay those percentages.
Joseph Kistler, co-director of the union's negotiating team, has said the issue is one of money, which he contends the city has been unwilling to address.