Despite disapproval from several city officials, Boston City Council passed a six-year contract award that will provide a 25.4 percent salary increase for Boston Police Patrolman’s Association members on Wednesday.
Councilor John Connolly, who had previously said he was against the raise, was not present for the vote, and the $87 million contract passed 12-0.
“We ask our cops and our firefighters on a daily basis to wake up not knowing if they would go back home to their family,” said Councilor Felix Arroyo. “We ask them to do that. Now thankfully, most of the time, they come back home to their families. But we ask them to be prepared to give up their life for a stranger.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino previously denounced the award, which was arbitrated by labor arbitrator Timothy Buckalew, and said while the police did deserve a raise, the city was unable to foot the bill.
Meredith Weenick, chief financial officer for the city of Boston, said even prudent management would not alleviate the cost.
“I will offer that I agree with the arbitrator’s assessment of sound financial practices, but just because we are not Detroit does not mean that one union deserves an oversized raise,” she said. “We simply cannot afford it. Because we are well managed, we have the tools to make the tradeoff to balance the budget to accommodate the pay raise. There will be tradeoffs to accommodate this award. There’s no getting around that.”
The award applies to the salaries of all rank and file officers in the police force. This award comes following a similar raise for firefighters approved in 2010 that cost $74 million.
Councilor Matt O’Malley voiced his support for the salary increase and said a high percentage does not necessarily imply a high cost.
“There is a real possibility, should we not pass this contract, that the percentage in the final negotiating contract would be lower than 25.4 percent, but the cost associated with it would be more,” he said. “Parity [with the fire department] is key, but we need to make sure that this is done right and this is done well.”
Councilor Ayanna Pressley said despite being initially shocked by the size of the award, the city would be able to afford the pay raise.
“This is a large reward, and it is hard to digest,” she said. “The city negotiators argued that this is a heavy raise, and it is, but it is within the city budget to fulfill its obligation.”
In a 12-page document authored by Buckalew, he acknowledged the award’s costliness, but defended the high cost by stating that the award covers a six-year period and argued that the city would be able to afford the pay raise due to prudent management and solid fiscal policies.
Several residents who were at the City Council meeting said the police deserved a raise, but they had mixed views on the council’s vote.
Derek Bisson, 22, of Brighton, said the salary increase is too extreme and that a gradual approach would be more rational.
“With anything with money, there is going to be manipulation involved and people are going to take advantage of their higher wages,” he said. “Especially for the families and the policemen now, that might not be a very good thing as far as adjusting their lifestyle. I think that can definitely have some negative effects when you jump that high.”
Lindsey Hoban, 32, of Dorchester, said the police are deserving of the pay raise and should be appropriately compensated for their difficult and oftentimes dangerous work.
“It’s great to hear that people who serve our government, civil servants, are actually going to be the beneficiaries of increased wages,” she said. “It’s phenomenal news. Our taxpayer money is going to people who protect us.”