Show Boothbay Harbor police the respect they deserve

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 5:00pm

The police employees of the town of Boothbay Harbor are in negotiations for the renewal of their collective bargaining agreement. The town’s police employees and the Union acknowledge that this is an awkward time to be having a dispute with the town officials. However, there comes a time in all relationships that people need to take a stand. We are collectively doing so now.

As the police go about doing their jobs, they need the support of their employers, particularly at this time of COVID-19. Unlike many of the town’s regular citizenry, and those who are on the other side of the table, the police cannot decide to do their job on Zoom or work from home. They cannot decide not to visit a particular setting, to cross the street or to stay at least six feet away from whomever needs their help, or from whomever needs to be dealt with for the safety of others. Put yourself in that position — think about it!

One would think that in today’s environment that the town officials would have experience, at least, a very small example of the stress that their police face daily, COVID-19 or not.

The issues in dispute concern the wage rate and health insurance costs and retroactivity. The police proposals are not pie-in-the sky rates. They simply want to work in this community with a pay rate that would be at least equal to that of their fellow officers at surrounding communities such as Lincoln County where they are paid three to four dollars per-hour more. Boothbay Harbor, not unlike many police departments in the state and nation, do not have qualified, trained policemen knocking down their doors to get a job. That fact alone should encourage the town to make their police department at least competitive with other municipalities. The citizens of any town should want their police, firefighters and first responders to work in their town their entire careers.

The city of Portland has recently voted a $3 per-hour increase on top of their hourly rate if they work during a “declared emergency.” Well, every day in the life of a police officer has the potential of an instant, unexpected, unannounced, declared emergency.

To add salt to the wound, the town has given the police an ultimatum; they have declared that if the police do not accept the town’s last offer that retroactivity is off the table. In the world of collective bargaining, such a tactic is considered the “nuclear option.” A take it or lose it challenge is never a fair ploy to be used by either party. There is never any justifiable reason for such a tactic other than desperation and intentional disrespect.

All around town and in all cities and towns in Maine and the nation have signs on display that thank the first responders for their willingness to go where others refuse or are fearful to go. Those thanks mean nothing if the police officers of Boothbay Harbor cannot get the respect shown to their follow officers of nearby towns.

Teamsters Local Union No. 340 represents just under 4,000 members in bargaining units across the state, including municipal employees, police, firefighters and freight workers. Local 340 seeks to improve the working conditions and lives of its members through the collective bargaining process, through the political process and legislative efforts. — From Teamsters Local Union No. 340 website