CHESTER COUNTY, PA – Up in arms over a cost-cutting plan by two Chester County townships to get rid of their joint police department, the police officers’ union said Tuesday it would file an unfair labor practice complaint with the state.
Saying that East Goshen and Westtown Townships have failed to bargain in good faith, union attorney Joseph Chupein called their conduct “unlawful” and said the union would consider “additional legal action.”
In announcing the plan Monday, the supervisors said the current labor contract with the Westtown-East Goshen Police Association, which expires next year, was “unsustainable.”
Several of the 150 people crammed into Westtown’s tiny council chambers Monday night for the supervisors’ meeting said they were concerned that the board’s actions might affect safety in the community. A meeting of the East Goshen supervisors was scheduled for Tuesday night.
Among the alternatives the townships are considering are creating individual departments or requesting state police coverage, East Goshen Township Manager Rick Smith said.
In a news release issued Tuesday, union president Anthony Ruggieri said that dissolving the regional department, which has 30 officers, was “fiscally reckless” and would end up costing taxpayers more money.
He argued that if a new entity – or entities – were created, an arbitrator likely would use the existing contract as a “starting point” for salaries and benefits. That would erase hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings resulting from contract concessions, he said.
Both sides say they have made concessions during negotiations, but they were unable to come to an agreement by the Sept. 29 deadline.
Union representatives have balked at language that would permit the layoff of officers despite a promise that no such layoffs would occur during the next six years.