Momentum appears to be building on the Boston City Council to approve an arbitration award that would grant police detectives a nearly 29 percent raise over six years.
At least three councilors have stated publicly that they plan to vote in favor of the measure, arguing that fairness to hard-working police investigators trumped criticism that the pay hike would perpetuate an unsustainable pattern of raises. No councilors have come out against the arbitration award, as a vote on the issue looms.
Several other councilors said Sunday they remain undecided because they had questions about the cost of the contract and why negotiations broke down between the detectives’ union and Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration. The council will hold a public hearing at 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall in preparation for a vote, which could come as early as Wednesday.
“I’m not leaning any way, I’m dead smack in the middle,” said Councilor Andrea Joy Campbell of Mattapan, who leads the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee. “I’m still reviewing past arbitration decisions for the other bargaining units.”
City Councilor Bill Linehan of South Boston said that he expects the arbitration award to be approved, based on history.
“We’ve had tougher fights, larger groups, more significant dollar amounts and they passed,” Linehan said.
In a conversation with the detectives’ union, Linehan said he expressed his support for the arbitrator’s decision but told union representatives that this would be the last big pay hike. Boston needs to focus now on hiring more police for the city’s growing population, Linehan said, “not continuing to increase the salaries of police officers at very large percentages.”
After contract negotiations failed, an arbitrator issued a ruling in December that would give the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society a nearly 29 percent salary increase from July 2010 to June 2016. Under state law, the union and the Walsh administration are required to support the arbitrator’s award, which has been estimated to cost $23 million.
The City Council has final say and can vote to fund the award or reject the contract and send both sides back to the bargaining table.
“The council’s responsibility is to understand the financial impact on the city’s budget and how this affects our ability to provide programming and funds for every other municipal employees,” said City Council president Michelle Wu . “That will be the focus of the hearing.”
Wu said she has not decided how she will vote.
The mayor’s spokeswoman, Laura Oggeri, noted in a statement that, if approved, the detectives’ 29 percent pay hike would be higher than the raises of other police unions (25 percent), firefighters (19 percent), and non-public safety unions (12.6 percent).
The different between the city’s last offer for detectives’ — 25 percent — and the arbitrator’s award would amount to $1.2 million annually. In concrete terms, that could fund roughly 166 kindergarten seats, 800 summer jobs for teens, or the positions of 50 police cadets.
The detectives’ award followed a 2013 arbitrator’s decision that granted the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association a 25.4 percent raise over six years. Brian Black, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, rejected the contention that his members stood to receive more than the patrol officers.
“This award merely conveys to the detectives the same components that the patrolmen received,” Black said. “The only reason the percentage notches up” is because detectives have more experience, education, and are higher on the pay scale.
Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, said he plans to urge the City Council to reject the award at Monday’s hearing. The arbitrator decision was based on the patrol officers’ award, Tyler said. The patrolmen in turn benefited from a 2010 arbitration decision for firefighters.
“This cycle of public safety arbitration awards building off of each other to justify even greater compensation benefits is a trend that is fiscally unsustainable by the city,” Tyler said in a statement.
City Councilor Timothy McCarthy of Hyde Park said police detectives are “paid well,” but he plans to vote for the award because of the demands the city places on detectives and the effect their job has on their families.
“At the end of their shifts, they generally do not make plans to go home because they are forced into overtime,” McCarthy said. “If there is a murder, God forbid, later in a shift, they have to stay on. They miss baptisms, they miss weddings, they miss all these things.”Andrew Ryan can be reached at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.