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Reading, PA, Police Receive Bonuses
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The city of Reading, Pennsylvania is experiencing a classic example of unintended consequences, according to city officials. There are 200 police officers working for the city, and each one of them received a $1,000 bonus if they worked in 2010. The bonus was handed out earlier in December of this year because the department was able to spend less money in 2010 than it spent in 2009. The reason for the savings is layoffs.

In simple terms, police officers who survived the budget cut layoffs of 2010 were able to profit from the loss of their colleagues. Towards the end of 2009, an arbitrator ruled that the city had to pay the officers because that is what the police contract said in terms of payment.

  
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Other bonuses paid by the city in 2010 for 2009 were for layoff and retirement savings. Those bonuses will also be paid again in 2012 because the police department for Reading lost more officers this year compared to last.

“It’s not what we had in mind, but it’s written in the contract that way,” Mayor Tom McMahon said, according to the Reading Eagle. “It’s the law of unintended consequences.”

The city’s intent back in 2006, according to McMahon, was to acquire more suggestions for cost cutting by offering half the first year’s savings, which amounts to $1,000 per police officer. The wording of the contract provides a different meaning though. The contract pretty much says that if the city spends less on the police department than it did in the previous year, the police officers must share the savings, no matter the reason as to why the department spent less money.

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The president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Officer Justin Uczynski, says that the city forced the benefit program on the union back in 2006 during negotiations for a contract that would last five years. Uczynski also said that the language of the contract was written by the city and not by the Fraternal Order of Police.

“We never had any desire to join this,” Uczynski said. “They wanted this. They created this monster.”



Uczynski says the FOP believes that the ulterior motive for the city was to push itself closer to the state’s Act 47 financial recovery program. The city entered this program in the latter months of 2009. The financial plan requires that the city hire a labor attorney before any new negotiations take place. The plan also mandates that the city remove the savings clause in the new police contract, which would begin in 2012, but it is currently in arbitration.

State and city officials received a bit of surprise recently as the state’s Supreme Court ruled that arbitrators for police and firefighter contracts do not have to follow that particular financial plan. McMahon now says that the Legislature wants clarification on the language of Act 47.



 

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