Police contract calls for raises, discourages overtime

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A proposed city of Pittsburgh police contract would provide raises dependent in part on whether officers opt for time off rather than overtime.

The novel contract, endorsed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Fraternal Order of Police President Dan O'Hara, goes up for a union vote Saturday. It would grant police officers no raise but a $1,000 bonus this year -- half of the $2,000 bonus allowable under the city's Act 47 recovery plan -- and 2 percent raises annually from 2011 through 2014.

The raises are lower than the maximum allowed under the plan in part because the contract would restore a salary bump for officers with 15 years of experience or more, which had been eliminated in past budget cuts. Officers with that level of experience would get a one-time pay bump of around $2,500 and a fifth week of vacation.

Officers with four to 10 years' experience would get $1,000 to $2,000 in annual longevity pay. They did not get longevity pay under the prior contract. More experienced officers already get longevity pay, which would top out under the new contract at $10,000 for a 40-year veteran.

To accommodate those benefits, officers would be encouraged to take compensatory time off, rather than overtime pay, when they have to work extra hours due to court dates. If enough money were saved through officers opting for compensatory time rather than overtime pay, the officers would get bonuses of as much as $1,000 in 2014. If the program did not save enough money, then raises would be trimmed in the following calendar year.

Act 47 Recovery Team co-leader James Roberts confirmed that he had approved a police contract but would not discuss details. The team must verify that labor contracts won't cost more than allowed under the city's five-year Act 47 plan.

That plan allows the Police Bureau's total budget of $67 million last year -- not including health insurance, pensions and workers' compensation -- to rise to $74.3 million in 2014. Nearly 95 percent of the budget is made up of officer pay.

The proposed contract would guarantee health care coverage to the surviving spouse and dependents when an officer is killed in the line of duty, adding to the contract something Mr. Ravenstahl granted in April after the slaying of three officers in Stanton Heights.

The city would eliminate disability insurance and instead require sick or injured officers to use vacation, personal and compensatory time, or to dip into a "catastrophic leave bank." An officer who must be off for more than 15 days can use the leave bank, created by donations of compensatory or personal time off from colleagues throughout the year.

In another provision, officers charged with certain criminal offenses could be reassigned to non-law-enforcement desk positions or suspended without pay if no such jobs are available. Suspensions could be challenged in arbitration.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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