SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 7, 2014

Our view: 'Healthy' contract for patrolmen needs a cure

Here’s a deal for you: Don’t take a sick day for three months, and your boss gives you a paid day off.

It’s called a “healthy day,” and the Beverly police patrol officers would have a right to it under the new contract former Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon signed on his way out the door in December.

If you don’t use the “healthy day,” you can add it to your “sick bank.” And if you don’t use all your days in your sick bank before you retire, the city will pay you for those days too.

Essentially, taxpayers will be paying patrolmen extra for coming into work, as scheduled, when they are not sick. There’s more: Under the new contract, patrol officers will get a 2 percent stipend if they “agree” to change their shifts for community policing duties. These “community policing stipends” will cost the city an extra $77,000.

We don’t begrudge patrol officers the overall contract, which calls for a retroactive 6 percent raise — 1.5 percent raises for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, and a 1 percent raise for 2014. The recession has been hard on everyone.

Still, it’s worth noting that many workers in the private sector have gone just as long without a raise, and there’s no retroactive thank-you for them. Compared to private workers, those in the public sector have secure jobs with decent wages and above-average benefits and pensions.

That’s what makes costly and confusing add-ons like “healthy” days so aggravating.

Public union contracts have become so larded with special deals and givebacks that it has become difficult if not impossible for taxpayers to know the value of the deal they are funding. And once perks are included in a contract, they must be “negotiated out,” which usually means adding another ladle of gravy elsewhere.

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