Mandatory Overtime Is a Fact of Life

The Appeals Court has again confirmed that, not withstanding an arbitrator’s ruling, it will not permit any infringement on what it views as a police chief’s inherent managerial right to require mandatory overtime of public safety personnel. In Town of Saugus v. Saugus Public Safety Dispatchers, issued 12/23/05, the Appeals Court again overturned an arbitrator’s award finding a contract violation in a chief’s requiring mandatory overtime. This case involved police dispatchers. The decision follows similar ones involving Saugus (64Mass. App. Ct. 916 (2005)) and Andover (45 Mass. App. Ct. 167 (1998))police officers.

The message for those of us representing public safety personnel is clear: Mandatory overtime is a fact of life. Our job is to negotiatewith management to make such overtime as acceptable as possible. The lawis quite clear that management has to negotiate with a union over how much someone gets paid to perform overtime and the process of selecting who does the overtime. Some unions have a rotating list by inverse seniority; others confine the requirement to the most junior officers.In some cases, where last minute absence leaves no other choice, officers have to be held over.

Aside from the basic reality that someone can be required to work overtime, the identity and compensation of that person or persons is within the union’s power to negotiate. I have always felt that it is unwise for police unions to contest management’s requiring mandatory overtime. If we are arguing that the work police do is essential, it makes no sense to say that, if no onewants to do that work on a particular shift, it is unnecessary. To the contrary, police unions need to advocate that for reasons of both officer safety and workload, there must be at all times a minimal number of officers available to respond to service calls and calls for officers in trouble.