The University and the union representing its police officers reached a tentative contract settlement Tuesday, capping 14 hours of negotiations at City Hall and 26 months without a new contract.
The contract talks — the first since June — were marked by renewed efforts to reach a settlement, with higher-level University administrators coming to the bargaining table and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. acting as a mediator between the two sides. The full negotiating team for the police union and union members must sign off on the contract before it is implemented.
Members of the Yale Police Benevolent Association — the union representing 55 police officers — have been renewing their contract on a monthly basis since it expired in 2002.
YPBA chief steward Christopher Morganti expressed mixed feelings about the proposed contract and uncertainty about whether members would accept it.
“I think parts of it are very good, parts of it are less than what we tried to get,” he said. “I think it’s really going to be up to the members.”
University officials praised the dedication of both sides in reaching an accord on Tuesday. Negotiators arrived at City Hall Tuesday morning, and did not agree on a contract until late that night.
Yale Police Chief James Perrotti praised the settlement that was finally reached.
“It’s a good contract for the officers and detectives,” Perrotti said. “It’s likewise good for the University, and we should be able to put this chapter behind us and move forward.”
Union leaders and Yale officials were hesitant to discuss the provisions of the proposed contract before its details were shared with YPBA members. Issues of wages and officer discipline were unresolved before the meeting, but officials had already come to an agreement on an increased pension multiplier, an eight-year contract, and changes in retirement age and work schedule.
Procedures for disciplining officers were a major sticking point throughout talks, with University officials unwilling to make concessions they said would undermine Perrotti’s authority. Perrotti declined to specifically discuss how discipline was resolved, but said the University was able to shift its position somewhat to satisfy the union.
Officers and detectives — who have not had pay raises since the contract expired — will receive retroactive pay if officers approve the proposed contract, Perrotti said.
Morganti said the YPBA negotiating team will vote on the contract Saturday. It will be put to a full vote of YPBA members as early as next week, he said.
Both sides said DeStefano was decisive in getting the two sides to agree. Morganti said DeStefano’s clout brought higher-ranking University officials to the bargaining table, and University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the YPBA’s trust of the mayor made bargaining easier.
“[DeStefano's] father was a police officer,” Highsmith said. “He has a lot of credibility and understands police work.”
DeStefano also acted as a mediator during the previous YPBA contract talks in 1998, and during a strike of locals 34 and 35 — Yale’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers — last year.
Bob Proto, the president of Local 35, credited DeStefano with helping speed the resolution of his own union’s contract talks — and said he knows the mayor played a “vital role” in bringing about the police’s tentative agreement.
Union officials had complained during previous negotiations that no Yale official with decision-making power came to bargaining sessions. Perrotti and Highsmith — who normally left negotiating sessions to other officials — chose to attend the City Hall negotiations.
“I think the University wanted to reflect how serious they were as far as getting an agreement,” Perrotti said.
Rob Schwartz, the University’s chief human resources officer, praised Yale’s police officers for maintaining their professionalism throughout the often-tense negotiations.
“There was the negotiation, and there was the important job our police force does, and they stayed separate,” Schwartz said.
During the last contract negotiation, officers held a “speed-up,” using their discretionary power to give out as many tickets as possible. Police also staged a “blue flu,” in which 95 percent of the officers who were scheduled to work called in sick. YPBA members did not engage in job actions this time, despite the protracted contract talks.