BETHLEHEM — A labor dispute, mired by roadside signs and barbs traded in last year’s political season, has come to an end.
Bethlehem’s town supervisor and police supervisor’s union jointly announced before the Town Board Wednesday, May 24, that the two sides have come to an agreement nearly two years after their contract expired.
“I am very pleased that we were able to come to terms with the Supervisors Union,” stated Town Supervisor John Clarkson. “This agreement is a good compromise, with benefits for labor, management, and most of all the public.”
The new, three-year agreement calls for union members to receive a two percent cost of living increase, retroactive to 2015 and continuing on for 2016 and into 2017. Additional step increases are also worked into the agreement..
The most apparent change is visible through a revised work schedule, calling for shift supervisors to work 12 hours instead of eight. In turn, the number of scheduled days is staggered over a two-week period — where 60 hours would be worked one week, followed by a 24-hour week. Rather than working five eight-hour shifts weekly, each sergeant is to work seven 12-hour shifts every two weeks. Built into that schedule is seven days off, including Friday, Saturday and Sunday, every other week. In his statement, Clarkson said, “it will provide the sergeants more weekend and other days off, which we hope will be a lifestyle improvement for Bethlehem Police Department’s management staff.”
Sgt. Steve Kraz noted the new schedule addressed multiple factors concerning union members, quality of life and supervisor coverage. “This schedule, by design, will settle these issues,” he said. “In essence, we’re working more but clocking in less often.”
Another factor focused on supervisor coverage. The new schedule, which will likely go into effect in September, overlap during peak patrol periods. It’s suppose to improve supervision and provide coverage when sergeants are out. This is also expected to reduce overtime costs, a subject the town had focused upon throughout the dispute.
In addition to issues involving wages and the new 12-hour shift, both sides came to terms over changes in health insurance premiums and copays and to end all current labor grievances.
Kraz said he was pleased both sides could come to an agreement after “a long matter.”
“I would like to thank the Town Board for their support and openness to reach this agreement”, said Kraz. “I would also like to commend my colleagues for their patience throughout the process as there is no ‘perfect’ agreement, but this is an agreement which should benefit the union and the town.”