Longer days for cops, firefighters evade change in work schedule, in Harrison

HARRISON –

Beginning March 1, police officers in Harrison will adjust to a new work schedule – same as the one newly adopted by neighboring Kearny – that, officials say, should make the town safer.

In return for working more hours, local cops should see more pay in their pockets.

The new “Pitman” schedule – a combination of 14 12-hour work days in a 28-day cycle – is a key ingredient of the newly concluded labor contracts between the town and its two PBA locals representing rank-and-file and police superiors.

Representatives of the town and PBA Local 22 and Local 22A signed memoranda of agreements last week and the Town Council went along Feb. 7. The contracts remain subject to approval by the state Division of Local Government Service.

In a related public safety labor development, the town finally wrapped up bargaining a new contract with members of its firefighters’ union and, in so doing, FMBA Local 22 managed to stave off the prospect of a 56-hour work week – something the state FMBA adamantly opposed.

The union also dodged – for the time being – a possible takeover by the Newark Fire Department although that scenario is still the subject of ongoing negotiations between the municipalities, according to town attorney Paul Zarbetski.

Harrison and FMBA Local 22 agreed to a 3-year deal, retroactive to Nov. 1, 2016, and running through Dec. 31, 2018, which calls for no raises for the first two years and a 1% hike in 2018.

The new agreement limits overtime pay (at time and a half) to emergency recalls for working fires, EMS runs or mutual aid and designated holiday periods.

For new hires, it changes longevity for new hires to 2% after 10 years of service, 4% after 15 years and 6% after 20 years; extends the time to reach maximum pay of $89,092, from eight to 12 years; and eliminates paid health insurance for retirees and their dependents.

And it restricts overtime pay at time-and-a-half for personnel in acting assignments to those serving temporarily in the higher rank for longer than 30 days.

The PBA contracts, meanwhile, each run four years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016, and ending Dec. 31, 2019.

Police Chief Derek Kearns is to implement the new schedule that calls for 168 scheduled hours in a 28-day cycle or 2,190 scheduled hours in a year. Cops assigned to shifts are entitled to the use of seven 12-hour schedule adjustment (“Kelly”) days off in a calendar year but not if that causes overtime. Those days cannot be carried over nor can they be exchanged for compensation.

Cops assigned to the “day” tour would be on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and those on nights would work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. “Labor and management will agree upon the number of 30-minute early patrol units to incorporate an overlap,” the contract says.

The chief can change the hours of a shift “based on the needs of the community” after giving 30 days written notice and he can adjust schedules to accommodate for mandated training and certifications.

Administrative officers will be scheduled to work a Monday to Friday tour of eight-hour days for a total of 2,080 hours in a year, minus 12 holidays or 96 hours, minus three 8-hour “administrative days.” They must work Election Day, Lincoln’s Birthday “and whenever the Town Hall is closed for snow or any other emergency.”

Rank-and-file cops will get no raises for 2016, 2018 or 2019 but will receive across-the-board raises to their base pay of 12% this year, retroactive to Feb. 1, “in partial consideration for the increased work hours from implementation of the 12-hour shift.”

For new personnel hired as patrolmen, longevity pay and paid health insurance for retirees and their dependents are eliminated.

Detectives will receive an annual stipend of $1,250.

Under the new contract, a current rank-and-file cop completing his/her first year will be making $41,190; a cop starting his/her fourth year will earn $74,614; and a cop beginning his/her eighth year will collect maximum pay of $99,784. New hires will be on a separate tier, taking 12 years to reach top pay.

For superior officers, a separate salary guide sets for the annual pay of a sergeant now permanent in rank at $109,670 as of 2016 and at $122,830 for 2017, 2018 and 2019; and of a permanent lieutenant at $115,339 as of 2016, $129,719 for 2017 and $134,708 for 2018 and 2019.

Kearns said the Pitman schedule “is something I advocated for a long time.” Now with “more cops on patrol,” the HPD “can police more efficiently, spend less in overtime and allow us to specialize in areas such as crime suppression and traffic safety.”

Kearns said the next logical step would be to get the civilian dispatchers assigned to the HPD on the same 12-hour schedule “to work in harmony with our squads.” That change of hours must be negotiated with the Civil Service local, he said.

Currently with 34 available personnel, with four supervisors (Lts. Michael Daggett and John Osterkorn and Sgts. Tom Corblies and Steve Krushingski) having recently retired, “we’re four under our T.O. (Table of Organization),” the chief said. “But I hope to go to 38 within a month. We’re waiting for the [Hudson County] sheriff to release some officers we feel are eligible for intergovernmental transfers.”

Neither Officer Joseph Carr, head of PBA Local 22, nor Lt. David Strumolo, Local 22A president, could be reached for comment on the new contracts as of press time.

 

 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.