Christmas it appears came early with the Superior court decision in Teamsters local Union 25 v. Town of North Reading Sup. Ct. Civil action#MICV2009-2856 on 12/17/10. The case is a significant blow to towns and cities looking to cut career incentive pay for police officers.
The Quinn bill, M.G.L. c. 41, §108L which established educational incentives for police has been under attack in recent years (this, despite significant gains in the quality of personnel hired as a result) as a cost cutting tool.
There are currently a number of ongoing lawsuits regarding the Quinn bill and communities failure to fulfill their portion after the state abandoned its obligations. In the one at issue the police unions side letter was the cause of the conflict as it allowed the town to discontinue payments to the union.
However, the town relied on MGL c. 150E § 7d which states that if a collective bargaining agreement and statute are in conflict then the collective bargaining agreement shall prevail in specific instances. The statute is very specific and does not specifically mention this scenario, therefore under JOHN B. PALMER vs. BOARD OF SELECTMEN OF MARBLEHEAD & others. 368 Mass. 620 (1975)Which states “Once the statute was accepted by the town it had a legal duty to pay the amounts due the plaintiff as certified by the board. See Brucato v. Lawrence, 338 Mass. 612 (1959) (payments due employees pursuant to annual step rates set forth in State statute must be paid). Of course, as the town argues, a municipality need not in the first instance seek certification by the board but then the town would have to pay the amount due a police officer without reimbursement from the State.”
The meat of the case is found on page 14 which I encourage you to read if the case affects you, and provides very good language for police officers attempting to stave off significant pay cuts.
Attorney Ronald A. Sellon