University officials and the union representing Yale Police Department (YPD) officers will hold another bargaining session Thursday in an attempt to settle their ongoing contract dispute.
The two sides have been meeting with a mediator about once a week in an attempt to settle issues of pensions, wages, benefits and due process. If the two sides do not negotiate a new contract by November 21, union officials have planned a rally on Beinecke Plaza, scheduled to coincide with the Harvard-Yale football game and a Yale Corporation meeting, union chief steward Christopher Morganti said.
The Yale Police Benevolent Association (YPBA), which represents 55 police officers, has been renewing its contract on a monthly basis since it expired sixteen months ago. Morganti said he was more optimistic than in previous weeks that mediation would be successful and job actions, including a strike, could be avoided.
“I know Yale’s anxious [for a settlement]. We’re anxious. It’s just a matter of getting the right compromises,” Morganti said.
However, Morganti said the most important issues, including pensions and due process for police officers, have not yet been discussed in depth. The union has claimed that YPD officers are not given the same job protection as regular police forces and are often suspended prematurely in disciplinary investigations.
Morganti said the YPBA would likely renew the contract for another month on Nov. 15. As long as the contract is in place, the union is forbidden to strike, Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said.
The upcoming rally is meant to highlight the labor dispute for the Yale community, especially the Yale Corporation, Morganti said. The Corporation is Yale’s highest decision-making body.
“[The rally is] just so people don’t forget that we’re not settled yet,” Morganti said.
Federal mediator Joseph Dubin — who also mediated some discussions between Yale and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35 — has been meeting with the two sides for several weeks. The negotiating teams do not meet face to face, but instead articulate their position to Dubin, who then tries to resolve their differences, Morganti said.
Dubin and Highsmith declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations.
“At this point negotiations are off the record,” Dubin said. “The process we’re using is trying to get to a settlement.”
Morganti said the next few negotiating sessions will be crucial if contracts are to be settled by the mediator.
At the YPBA’s last public action, officers leafleted outside Woolsey Hall before the Freshman Assembly and Parents’ Weekend concerts. During the events, University officials handed out letters from University Secretary Linda Lorimer, which said the package Yale has offered its police officers is generous.
Highsmith said she was not aware of any specific plans to hand out fliers at the Nov. 21 rally, but that some response from the University would probably be necessary.
“I think we’d want to respond to get information to folks,” Highsmith said.
Morganti said the leaders of locals 34 and 35 would probably be asked to attend the rally for support. The unions — which represent 4,000 clerical, technical, service, and maintenance workers — resolved their own 19-month contentious contract dispute Sept. 18.
Local 35 President Bob Proto said he was not sure if he would attend the rally. He said he has other plans for the day.
“We know about this rally and are telling our members they can make a choice about going,” Proto said.