CHELMSFORD -- An arbiter has ruled the town must pay its 10 police sergeants back pay, since payments for overtime worked by the sergeants did not include longevity bonuses, as stipulated in the sergeants' expired contract.
Town Manager Paul Cohen said the town will not appeal the ruling. He said the town accountant is still calculating how much the ruling will cost, but he expects the figure to be in the "tens of thousands."
"It's not something that will rock the foundation of the town's finances," Cohen said.
The union representing the department's 10 sergeants filed a grievance in November after a sergeant realized his overtime pay was being calculated based on base pay, when the sergeants' contract said it should have been calculated based on base pay plus a longevity bonus.
The town disagreed, but arbiter Sarah Garraty ruled in favor of the union, and ordered the town to begin calculating overtime pay based on base pay and longevity. Garraty also ordered the town to provide back pay for overtime worked since Nov. 7.
The sergeants already received overtime pay for that work, so the back pay will only be the additional money they would have gotten had longevity been factored into calculating overtime pay.
Cohen said the ruling comes as the town is also heading into arbitration with the sergeants over an overall contract. The sergeants have been working without a contract since June 30, 2013. The terms of their previous contract remain in place while a new contract is being sought.
Jerry Flynn, executive director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, which the sergeant's union is part of, said sergeants have gone seven years without a pay raise, while Chelmsford firefighters have received several raises in the same time frame.
"They're seeking a fair and equitable contract -- the same contract firefighters have gotten," Flynn said.
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