A debate over pensions and how to discipline police officers has held up negotiations between the University and the police union — negotiations that have now dragged on for 19 months after the current contract expired.
University officials and leaders of the Yale Police Benevolent Association, the union representing 55 police officers, met again yesterday in a small group for off-the-record negotiation, YPBA chief steward Christopher Morganti said. The two sides expressed disagreement on how much progress has been made and what major issues continue to divide the two sides.
Morganti said the bargaining positions of both sides have not changed substantially since November and expressed frustration with Yale’s negotiator James Juhas. Morganti said he did not know how much longer the YPBA would continue negotiating with Juhas before asking to speak with more top-level Yale officials, such as Yale’s new administrators. In December, Yale appointed John Pepper ’60 vice president for finance and administration, in addition to four other new associate vice presidents.
“There were things we’ve had in the past that put us at odds [with Juhas],” Morganti said. “Maybe with some of these newer people — there won’t be that history.”
But University Secretary Linda Lorimer expressed faith in the current negotiating process.
“I think the dialogue as I have been hearing it is productive and I remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement this semester,” Lorimer said.
Lorimer said the major issue the two sides have been discussing is pensions.
Yale is currently offering a 5 percent increase in the pension multiplier, meaning an officer retiring under the proposed contract would get a 5 percent higher pension than under the current contract. Under the proposal, an officer would be eligible for a full pension after 25 years with the department.
The YPBA is seeking a 25 percent increase in the pension multiplier and full retirement after 20 years of service.
Morganti said he was hopeful that most of the financial issues could be resolved. More problematic, Morganti said, was the issue of police discipline, an area in which the YPBA has proposed widespread changes. The YPBA has said officers have been rashly suspended or fired from the department without the protections afforded municipal police officers.
In a November letter to YPBA members, University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the proposed changes to the discipline process threaten to “erode leadership and management responsibility” in the department.
Additionally, Yale has offered a 3 percent annual increase in salary in the new contract, while union officials are proposing a 5 percent increase.
The contract is automatically renewed on the 15th of each month unless either side decides to cancel. If the contract is cancelled, University police officers — unlike municipal police — have the ability to go on strike.
But Yale’s negotiating strategy includes measures to dissuade officers from striking. As long as the contract remains in effect, Yale has agreed to retroactive pay when the contract is finally settled. That pay currently comes to several thousand dollars to any officer working consistently since the contract expired. If the union calls a strike, the agreement on retroactivity would terminate.
Morganti said the contract will almost certainly be renewed Feb. 15, and said a cancellation in the near future is unlikely.
“Our window of opportunity is this semester,” Morganti said. “But we’re not going to do it willy-nilly.”