State Representative Martin J. Walsh today criticized an arbitration ruling that would grant patrolmen a 25.4 percent raise, calling for the city and the union to return to the bargaining table because the award was “out of line” and unsustainable.
But the mayoral candidate stopped short of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s call for the City Council to vote against the award, suggesting that it would violate a sacrosanct tenet of collective bargaining. Menino has urged the City Council to vote against the award to set a precedent because he said public safety unions have no motivation to settle voluntarily because they get better deals in arbitration.
“Mayor Menino has chosen to pursue irresponsible negotiating tactics,” Walsh said in a statement. “He has put the City in the untenable position of choosing between an exorbitant arbitration award or reneging on the basic tenets of collective bargaining.”
Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce disputed that characterization of the process, saying Walsh “doesn’t have the facts.”
“The city of Boston has contracts with 75 percent of our unionized workforce that were settled voluntarily,” Joyce said in a phone interview. “Right now, there is no reason for public safety unions to negotiate contracts with the city when they always get more in arbitration. The only way to break this cycle is to have the city council vote ‘no.’ ”
The argument over whether the City Council should vote against a contract settled in arbitration last played out in 2010, when firefighters received an award that would have provided a 19.2 percent raise over four years. In this type of arbitration, the decisions are binding for the union and the Menino administration.
However, the City Council must choose whether or not to appropriate money for the contract. If the City Council votes against the contract, both sides must return to the bargaining table.
The other mayoral candidate, City Councilor John R. Connolly, said in a statement Friday that he would decide whether to vote for the contract after reading the arbitrator’s decision and meeting with the city’s chief financial officer and the union.
“This is about our city’s fiscal health,” Connolly said. “This is also about our hard-working police officers who have gone years without a raise.”