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Police reaction dismissed
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
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SOUTH HADLEY - Town administrator Patricia A. Vinchesi has responded to complaints by the head of the police union about her and a recent arbitration award by calling his remarks "sour grapes."

"This is a classic case of 'sour grapes' because the arbitration he wanted didn't work out the way he had hoped," Vinchesi said in a statement released by the selectmen's office Friday afternoon.

Earlier in the week, Detective McClair W. Mailhott, president of Local 375 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, criticized Vinchesi for not meeting with the union and called the Dec. 2 settlement by the Joint Labor Management Committee "a slap in the face to South Hadley police officers." The award grants police wage increases of 0 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent for fiscal years 2004 through 2006 and was reached after the police and the town could not come to an agreement.

Mailhott has complained that the settlement's wording is ambiguous regarding EMT work and sick leave buyback.

But Vinchesi has countered that the award is neither "unclear" nor "ambiguous." According to her, the union did ask to meet regarding confusion it had about the award and the town asked the union to put its concerns in writing.

"We just wanted an opportunity to review the areas of the agreement they thought were unclear," Vinchesi said in the statement. "We never refused to meet with them."

Her press release states that the union then wrote to the state Joint Labor Management Committee, asking that the award be changed.

"We found out that the union understood the award, they just didn't like what it said," Vinchesi stated.

The town has responded to the union's letter and is now awaiting a response from the state Joint Labor Management Committee, according to her.

"The town was very reasonable in its dealing with the police union," Vinchesi stated. "We tried to be as generous as we could within the difficult financial constraints facing the town."

The town administrator also stated "the town hopes that the award will serve as a wake-up call to the leadership of the police union, who pushed for arbitration, but ultimately received a result that was less favorable than the settlement offered by the town during negotiations."
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