Mayor presses police to okay new contract

With the outcome of today’s vote by Yale’s police union on a recently negotiated contract still uncertain, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is pressing union members to approve the contract.

DeStefano was credited by both sides with helping reach the agreement, which came after a marathon bargaining session in City Hall Sept. 7. But with union leaders giving the settlement less-than-enthusiastic support, DeStefano said he has emphasized to the police union that he will not continue to participate in negotiations if the agreement is rejected.

“It is clear to me, having spent a better part of the day with both sides, that this is a fair contract,” DeStefano said. “I have no intention, if this contract doesn’t pass, of devoting any additional time to this.”

The Yale Police Benevolent Association — which represents 55 police officers and detectives — has been negotiating a new contract with the University for more than two years. The current contract has been renewed on a monthly basis since it expired 26 months ago.

University officials have praised the settlement that was reached. But YPBA leaders decided to give a neutral assessment of the tentative agreement — not encouraging members either to approve or reject it — when they presented the settlement to officers last week.

YPBA chief steward Christopher Morganti said he believed the settlement was generally good, but with such a long contract — eight years — it was important for members to give serious thought to the vote. YPBA leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed contract’s provisions for overtime, discipline, long-term disability compensation and wage differentials.

DeStefano said since the negotiations were completed, he had spoken to both union leaders and rank-and-file YPBA members about his desire to see the contract approved.

University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said DeStefano’s advice should not be taken lightly.

“It was [the YPBA] who approached the mayor about being involved in this process,” Highsmith said. “He comes from a police background. He is certainly qualified to assess whether a contract is a good one for a police officer.”

DeStefano’s father worked as a police officer in New Haven.

Morganti said he was not surprised that the mayor was attempting to influence the outcome of the vote, but he was uncertain whether DeStefano’s outspoken support of the contract would make a difference.

DeStefano has acted as a mediator between Yale and its unions in the past. He is credited with settling the YPBA contract negotiations in 1998 and with helping end a three-week strike by locals 34 and 35 — the University’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers — last year. But in both those instances, the final contract was roundly praised by both sides and passed easily.

The vote on the contract will be held Monday at Yale Police headquarters on Sachem Street, Morganti said. He declined to speculate on whether the proposed contract would be approved, but said he did not see any major objections to the agreement raised during meetings with members last week. A simple majority is needed to ratify the contract.

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