Ocean City and Police Union Avoid Arbitration
Ocean City and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 10 (FOP) have continued an unbroken streak of successful contract negotiations, avoiding arbitration at the last moment by coming together in compromise on a new three-year contract between the city and the police. There has not been a negotiation that resulted in arbitration since the FOP was formed in 2004.
The current negotiations hit a wall in late February and seemed to be headed to the city’s first-ever arbitration. The FOP had even taken the extraordinary step of voting to approve arbitration if the city did not reconsider specific issues on the table.
The main issue was the union’s 2008 decision to forego a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in order to help the city with its budget woes. The police have operated without a COLA increase for seven years, but believe the city’s finances have recovered to the point where this sacrifice is no longer necessary. The city’s initial reluctance to reinstate a COLA caused the talks to break down.
In response to the arbitration threat, the Mayor and City Council invited the FOP to sit down for informal meetings. From those informal talks the city created a list of issues it was willing to compromise on, which formed the foundation of the current three-year contract. The COLA and annual salary increases are part of the new contract, though details are not immediately public. The FOP described the contract as a “fair deal.”