Brookfield police officers and village officials, in contract talks for the past year, are back at square one after an arbitrator’s ruling in April, which extended the previous contract until 2006.
Edwin H. Benn, the arbitrator hired to mediate the dispute between the village and the Fraternal Order of Police, ruled that officers, who have been working without a contract since May 1, 2004, receive a 4-percent wage hike retroactive to that date. In addition, Benn extended the village’s old agreement another year, granting officers a 4-percent pay hike on May 1, 2005.
Also, according to the ruling, the two sides have another month to begin talks on a new contract. Benn will retain jurisdiction over the dispute in the event that negotiations break down again. The contract covers all Brookfield officers in the rank of sergeant and below. It does not include dispatchers or the force’s lieutenants and chief.
The village’s previous three-year deal with police ended April 30, 2004. Negotiations on a new contract stalled when the two sides came to loggerheads over proposed longevity stipends and health insurance contributions for officers, according to Village Manager Dave Owen.
Longevity stipends, lump sums awarded to employees for working for a number of years, are commonly awarded to government employees and teachers. Brookfield offers no such stipends to its police officers.
According to Owen, Brookfield police sought longevity stipends initially after 10 years of service with the village. That request was subsequently amended to 25 years, but the village’s stance against the stipends remained firm.
The arbitrator on April 6 ruled in favor of the village, and the contract extension did not include any provision for longevity pay. On the other hand, health insurance contributions for officers, which the village wanted to increase, also remain status quo as a result of the extension.
Under the terms of the extended contract, the village will continue to pay 95 percent of both the officer’s and his or her dependents’ health insurance premiums. The village also covers 75 percent of dental insurance costs for an employee’s dependents and 100 percent of optical insurance for both the employee and his or her dependents.
Benn’s ruling, however, has no bearing on the impending talks for a new contract. Both longevity stipends and health insurance contributions may be on the table again.
“The issue is not out of the way,” said Owen of the longevity stipends. “It can be negotiated again.”
The union has not yet issued a new proposal.
Sgt. John Marino, lead negotiator for the Brookfield FOP Labor Council #38 representing the police officers, declined to discuss specific negotiating points, but characterized talks as moving forward.
“We’re not at loggerheads; we’re not at a standstill,” Marino said. “Everything is fine.”