Chelsea Police Continue Public Attacks in Contract Bargaining

The two-year-long negotiations between the Chelsea Police Patrol Officers’ Association (CPPOA) and the City’s Administration have been a tale of two very different tactics.

To this day, City Manager Jay Ash and his administration have been tight-lipped and have declined to talk about the ongoing negotiations out of a respect for the process and out of the typical tacit agreement to keep union negotiations out of the newspapers.

Conversely, with mixed to confusing results, the CPPOA have taken to using a very public platform over the last year to air their grievances and frustrations over not having a contact they believe is acceptable.

They have made emotional and frustrated appeals at public meetings, making fantastic and impasssioned allegations.

They showed up with inflammatory signs earlier this summer when the Fox 25 Zip Trip came to Chelsea – drawing as many jeers as cheers from those in the crowd.

Their message is that the City is not investing in the salaries of street-level police officers. This week, for better or worse, they have taken their salary gripes and applied them to Ash and Police Chief Brian Kyes in a document analyzing salary information they indicate come from public records. They also indicated it was just the beginning of an even more visible campaign over the next several weeks.

“I currently serve as President of the Chelsea Police Patrol Officers’ Association, and since 2010 we have been in contract negotiations with the City and have discovered an alarming trend in salary growth for City Hall management personnel that is in stark comparison to other entities in the city,” said CPPOA President Felix Rivera. “The unique conditions that surround police organizations during stalled or failed contract negotiations can negatively impact morale, and more importantly cast a shadow over public safety efforts and initiatives. In the following weeks we will be releasing additional reports that address and reveal other issues of concern regarding the City of Chelsea.”

City Manager Jay Ash indicated that the tactic being used by the CPPOA is predictable and a typical way that unions apply pressure during tense negotiations – in particular comparing union and non-union contracts.

“It is a popular union tactic to compare union contracts with non-union contracts,” he said. “A major difference, though, is at the end of non-union contracts, the employee can be terminated. In numerous cases, non-union employees are working without any contract and could be terminated immediately. The same in not true for union members. There are numerous differences like that, including the earning of overtime – non-union members don’t get OT, that cause such comparisons to be generally like comparing apples to oranges. We will continue to attempt to negotiate in good faith, value the work of our unionized workforce, and be responsible with taxpayer dollars. Beyond that, I cannot comment on the actual negotiations.”

The document released on Monday evening illustrated contracts given to Ash and Kyes over the years – both of which are non-union contracts.

The report alleges that Ash began his first contract in 2000 at a salary of $88,000 and has progressed to $169,000 through four total contracts – the latest one ending in 2015.

“Over his 15 years of employment Mr. Ash has received an average wage increase of 7.5% every year,” read the report. “That growth while unsustainable in most any format, has gone unchecked by a city government.”

Ash said on Wednesday that many things were not contained in the analysis – such as the fact that Ash does not take the City’s health insurance (valued at more than $14,000 per year), that he turned in his City-owned vehicle, and turned down numerous raises.

More importantly, it was indicated that he has found a great deal of success in turning Chelsea around through new development and that has been noted in numerous City Council evaluations of Ash’s contract and performance.

“Most importantly, it reflects a pay for performance – with bond rating increases, hotel development, etc. – that councillors and others value as part of my performance appraisal, which is not allowed by union contracts to be performed on union members,” said Ash.

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