Friday, March 30, 2007

The SPSA vs. FCB - March 30, 2007

The March 30, 2007, Finance Control Board (FCB) meeting held at City Hall in Springfield, MA, was preceded this time around by the introduction of a thirty minute “speak out” by citizens wishing to address their concerns and causes with the Board. On this occasion, five persons chose to take the speaker’s podium, including Springfield Police Lieutenant Edward H. Geier Sr., who serves as President of the Springfield Police Supervisors Association (SPSA), and the always illustrious and entertaining Timothy Collins, President of the Springfield Education Association.

Lt. Geier spoke to the Board – and to the attending press – of the need to resolve the City’s lone remaining unsettled contract dispute – that between the City and the SPSA. The sixty-eight members of the SPSA are the "only remaining city employees, amongst thousands, that continue [to work] under the provisions of a city-imposed wage freeze," said Gieir. A contract offer was put forward by the FCB - which the FCB has said is what the city can afford, but the SPSA stated that it fails to address the unfinished obligations of the previous (frozen) contract. Under that contract, the Association agreed to back-load its raises in order to assist the city in its financial crisis. Those back-loaded raises, however, never came to be following the implementation of the wage freeze. The SPSA is seeking a settlement of that (previous) contract before entering into a new contract with the City.

In regards to the frozen contract, Lt. Geier said, "It is truly not believable and clearly not an accepted practice for parties to just disregard the terms and provisions contained within [contracts]." He continued, "A contract is a dual ownership document. In this case the men and women of this Association have lived up to, honored, and continue to complete the terms of the agreement while the City of Springfield and the Springfield Finance Control Board has failed to act in kind. It is not fair that we should have to negotiate a contract twice and it defies basic logic and common sense that one would actively negotiate a new agreement with someone when they have not fulfilled their obligations under the terms of the first agreement."

SPSA members picket outside City Hall - 3/30/07

The debate regarding the negotiation of city contracts in Springfield is unique to this particular city, in that Springfield, unusually (and illegally, it turns out), had a wage freeze in effect that negated agreed-upon raises. In other words, the obligations in those previous contracts were not honored by the city. And while this matter was eventually addressed in separate contract negotiations with other city employees, the fact that the SPSA had agreed to delayed pay raises (that never materialized, due to the freeze) in their last contract - and that members also took unpaid furloughs - makes their dispute even more unique, still.

Regardless of where one may stand on this issue, it is pretty clear that this contract negotiation should not be considered the same as all the others. No contract discussion should be. The City, and the FCB, should perhaps also heed the advise of Timothy Collins, who took a brief moment to speak in support of the SPSA: If the FCB fails to properly address its obligations under the (frozen) SPSA contract now, then how can members of other unions trust that the City will honor its obligations with regard to their labor agreements in the future?

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Missing Persons in New England

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