Housing authority, PHA police reach contract deal

The Fraternal Order of Housing Police has signed a contract with PHA. From left: PHA Administrative Receiver/Executive Director Michael Kelly, agency Police Chief Ben Walton, Officer Hakim Dunbar, union secretary; Detective Angela Rice-Warthen, union vice president, Commissioner Karen Newton Cole, and union President Rodney Little. — PHOTO PROVIDED

Ending nearly four years of on-and-off negotiations, the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the police department have signed a new contract.

The deal gives the department’s 26 members a 2.5 percent raise April 1, and a 3 percent raise on April 1, 2013, the final year of the contract. And, in an effort to address the years where officers worked without a contract, the new agreement also gave members a 7.5 percent retroactive raise.

In a significant change from previous contracts, the agreement requires police officers to contribute 5.5 percent of their pay toward their pension plan. PHA will match that total.

Until now, members had a traditional defined benefit plan.

The deal was ratified by housing Commissioner Karen Newton Cole on Thursday.

President of the Fraternal Order of Housing Police Rodney Little could not be reached Friday for comment.

PHA director Michael Kelly lauded the agreement.

“We are committed to agreements with our unionized workforce that are fair to our employees and to taxpayers,” he said. “With this contract, we are telling our uniformed police officers we appreciate their service, and we are also keeping within the financial realities of what our funding will allow,” said Michael Kelly, Administrative Receiver/Executive Director in a statement.

In addition to the wage increase, the housing authority agreed to pay the officers three years of back clothing allowance.

PHA has 26 uniformed police officers who mainly patrol older public housing sites.

That figure represents a major reduction in force from a high of 350 officers. Housing authority officials said that fewer officers are needed as the agency moves away from older, high-rise style projects to new houses built into the city’s street grid, which opens the agency’s developments up to patrols by city police. The housing authority also hires private security firms to augment policing, a practice that has been increasing since 2005. The agency had not hired a new police officer since 1998.

That fact has created some tension between the union and management.

Little, in statements to the Tribune earlier this year, accused the PHA of trying to break the union and noted that the two sides hadn’t even met to talk terms since July 2011.

 

Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

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