By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
Just before an ordinance calling for approving and ratifying the recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the City of Portsmouth and FOP Lodge #33 (police lodge), for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2014, was to be given a second reading, Portsmouth City Council retired to executive session, returned, then voted unanimously not to give the ordinance a second reading. Council had no open discussion, and gave no explanation.
Now, Council is saying they had questions about three issues within the contract, and want to solve those issues before bringing it forward.
“The first reason was the perceived additional time off,” President of Council John Haas said. “We were concerned the overtime budget would go up significantly.”
Haas said the fear is the time off would lead to more overtime since short staffing means any time an employee takes time off, other employees are given overtime to fill the slot.
Haas said the second reason was a change from the original contract as to how personnel are selected to perform special assignments.
“It changed it, going from ‘most qualified,’ to a seniority basis,” Haas said. “The chief could take who they thought was the most qualified to handle certain job assignments, rather than going by seniority. So he could pick who he wanted to fill certain positions on special assignment type work.”
Haas said there were no real job descriptions with some of the tasks, leaving decisions at the chief’s discretion. Haas said the union was concerned that the chief would have the ability to “play favorites.”
“I don’t think we’re that far apart,” Haas said. “Maybe what they had can be tweaked a little bit to some way where seniority plays a role, so that you don’t get a situation where it’s perceived that someone got an assignment because of favoritism.”
Haas said the third reason for not passing the ordinance was a desire by Council to wait until a chief of police is named.
“I think there is some consensus, I guess, there should probably be a police chief involved in negotiating the contract,” Haas said. “It would be his or her department, and they need to have some input since the contract was proposed for three years. We should have a police chief here shortly.”
Haas said he believes the time off and seniority guidelines portions of the contract will be worked out.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.