July 25, 2008

Albany Police Dispatchers Reject Contract Settlement

By Tim O'Brien, Albany Times Union, N.Y.

Jul. 25--ALBANY -- Police dispatchers rejected a proposed contract settlement with the city, their union president said today.

The 35 dispatchers have been without a contract for almost three years. The city offered 3 percent raises retroactive for 2006 and 2007 and 4 percent raises for this year and 2009.

Christian Mesley, president of the Albany Police Officers Union, said the dispatchers were frustrated because they had been told early on they would get an increase in base pay as well as the percentage increase.

The dispatchers start with a salary of about $30,000, he said, and the maximum they get is around $35,000 while their suburban counterparts make up to $50,000.

"They are one of the lowest paid in the area, and they are the busiest," Mesley said. "These guys were demoralized and frustrated. They waited two years and eight months to get offered what everybody else got offered."

Police Chief James Tuffey said the city has pulled the offer off the table, and the dispatchers won't get a better one.

"The agreement was very, very fair to the members of that unit," he said.

The agreement also called for increases in longevity pay, the uniform allowance and lineup pay, the chief said, and the city sought the ability to randomly test the dispatchers for drug use.

Tuffey said the members may have wanted an additional base pay increase, but the city has to decide what it can afford.

"They can ask for anything they want," he said. "It's what the city feels it can pay its employees."

The contract dispute may end up with a fact-finder making a recomendation to the Common Council. The council could then impose a one-year agreement. Mesley said in his 16 years in the union, he has never seen a contract taken to that step.


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