The city of Johnstown and its police union will meet with a state mediator Dec. 11 over an impasse to the contract that expired in 2009. Both sides express hope that the meeting with the Public Employment Relations Board mediator will move negotiations along.
Eric Johnson, president of the Johnstown Police Benevolent Association, said “we hope to reach an agreement for a one-shot deal.”
City Treasurer Michael Gifford, who sits on the city’s negotiating team, said he too remains optimistic.
“The city is hoping for a resolution, but I would not want to predict,” he said.
Johnson said the PERB mediator will hear proposals from both sides and offer a non-binding opinion. Should mediation fail, the next step in the process is binding arbitration, Johnson said.
Currently, he said, the two sides remain far apart. “We feel the difference between what we are asking for and what the city is offering is a big difference. It is not so much monetary as for other things we want to change in the contract.”
When the contract expired in 2009, both the city and PBA members agreed to delay negotiations. The reason was a personnel issue involving former Police Chief Greg Horning. He retired May 24, 2011, after a year on administrative leave following unspecified disciplinary charges.
Normally, the chief would have sat in as a city representative on negotiations with the PBA over a successor contract, but both the city and the police union did not want Horning to participate, having lost confidence in him, officials said.
The resolution of the personnel issue took approximately 18 months, after which the city and the PBA held several negotiation sessions, Johnson said. When the two sides could not agree on a new contract, the PBA filed for an impasse.
In its 2013 budget, the city is setting aside $99,000 for “all other” costs. Gifford said that represents raises of 2 percent to employees who are not members of bargaining units and also the projected raises for staff in bargaining units. The city’s contract with the CSEA expires in 2013 and the contract with the firefighters union expires at the end of this year.