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TUPA continues negotiations for salary increase

Tufts officers earn less than officers at other local schools

Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 16:08


tupd police car

In the 16 months since the Tufts University Police Association's (TUPA) contract with the University expired, negotiations about a new contract have produced progress, but few results. Both sides, however, remain confident that the issue will soon be resolved.

Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) officers are negotiating with the University for higher salaries which they say are consistent with their level of training, qualifications, reputation, and the salaries of officers serving at other local university police departments.

The previous contract between the University and the TUPA expired on June 30, 2001. The two sides have made several offers and counter-offers since then, but have failed to reach an agreement.

The 14-year-old TUPA has adopted "Five is fair" as its catch phrase and rallying cry, referring to its request for a five-percent pay increase each year. TUPD officers want the annual raise to be enshrined in a three-year contract.

But the University has only proposed a three-and-a-half percent salary increase per year, according to John King, director of Tufts' department of Public and Environmental Safety. The negotiating team recently met with the union and offered salary incentives in addition to the proposed rate of increase, but the proposal was rejected, King said.

Officers serving at other Boston-area universities such as Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College all earn significantly higher salaries than police officers at Tufts, according to TUPA's website, and this has been a bargaining point for TUPD officers. A Boston College officer earns the lowest salary of the officers at these institutions, but still seven percent more than a member of the TUPD. Boston University police officers earn the most of officers at the four universities, with a salary 16 percent higher than that of a Tufts officer.

Although TUPD officers recognize the difference in the size of the campuses of the universities mentioned on the website, Officer Sean Donlon, the president of TUPA, said they all of the universities have similar police departments.

TUPD officers have been trained in the use of firearms, CPR, and other techniques, and have undergone First Responder certification. According to Donlon, Tufts officers "are of the same quality with the same training" as sheriffs in Middlesex and Suffolk counties.

"Even the money we're asking for won't bring us to those other college levels, but we want to at least stay in the ballpark," he said.

Both the University and TUPA have their own views of what they feel is fair, but the police believe it has submitted a relatively modest proposal, Donlon said. "We feel we should get a little more. We know that the University has a commitment to the budget, but we don't feel we're asking for too much," he said.

Inevitably, it is unlikely the ultimate contract decisions will completely satisfy both sides, "but I don't see it as a fighting issue," Donlon said. "I see it as something that has to be worked out, that both sides can be as happy with as possible."

Educational incentives are currently built into TUPD officer salaries. On a per hour scale, an officer with an associate's degree in criminal justice receives an additional 25 cents per hour, 50 cents more with a bachelor's degree, and 75 cents more with a master's.

These types of incentives are unusual, King said. "That is important to understand when you look at graphs comparing our officers with those of other universities."

The University's negotiating team is expected to submit another proposal, at which time the executive board of the TUPA will determine whether or not they think the offer will be passed by a general union vote.

If the proposal is voted on and passed, it will be signed. "Hopefully this is not too far down the road," Donlon said.

Even with the current involvement of an outside mediator, the talks remain stalled. Although both sides seem willing to give a little, neither has proved to budge that final step. At one point, the University went against the mediator's advice and offered extra incentives, but the union rejected the offer anyway.

The sides do agree, however, on the intrinsic value of TUPD. "We're getting a lot of recognition from people inside and outside of the University," said Donlon. But, he said, TUPD hopes the University will give it "a little bit more recognition."

While contract negotiations sometimes produce a speedy resolution, it is not unusual for the process to take a long time, said King, the director of Public and Environmental Safety. "The important thing is that the department is continuing to do a great job. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to reach an agreement in the near future."

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