WORCESTER COUNTY, Mass. – Worcester County correction officers serving in the military must be paid by the sheriff’s department for weekend reserve training, an arbitrator has ruled.
The New England Police Benevolent Association, Local 550, claimed that Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis abruptly cut off leave pay to Worcester County Jail and House of Corrections officers in the military reserves who are called up for required weekend training.
Officers had been paid for weekend training for at least the past six years, according to the ruling. Sometime in 2012, the sheriff’s department ended the payments for weekend duty, saying the contract was meant only to pay for officers’ annual training tours and not for weekend drills.
The union said the grievance began when officers noticed they were no longer getting the money in their paychecks. One officer wasn’t paid when he was called up to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the union said.
“The Sheriff inexplicably and unilaterally tried to reduce this benefit for officers…” the union said in a statement.
Arbitrator Timothy J. Buckalew ruled on Dec. 6 that the sheriff’s department must continue to pay for the weekend training because it was already a long-established practice.
“The unilateral reinterpretation of the contract adversely affects officers who have relied on the contract as providing payment for their weekend drills,” Buckalew wrote.