Montgomery County's proposed collective bargaining agreement with police officers ran into opposition in the County Council yesterday, when some members said they would like to tack on an amendment giving the council the right to void the contract later on.
After a testy two-hour meeting that sometimes bordered on a shouting match between council members and the lawyers who helped negotiate the contract, the council agreed to put off a vote on the contract for a day. They hope to work out a compromise palatable to council opponents without gutting the pact.
Council member William Hanna, Jr., the most vocal opponent, said he would seek a new law to remove wages from the scope of future collective bargaining agreements.
The council's personnel committee, chaired by Esther P. Gelman, has recommended approving the contract only if language is added that would effectively void the contract if it is found to violate county policies guaranteeing non-discrimination and pay equity for all county workers.
The council recently formed a task force to study pay equity in the workforce, and its report is not due until next year. Gelman and Hanna said they wanted to make sure that the police--with a separately negotiated contract--do not become immune from any future findings of inequity or discrimination.
County Attorney Paul A. McGuckian said, in an opinion, that the proposed amendment "undermines the very nature of the collective bargaining process," while giving the council "broad supervisory authority under which it could unilaterally alter the terms of the contract."
"This contract is a precedent," said Hanna, his voice rising with emotion. "We are about to give away the rights of other non-police county employes to equity. We're bargaining away equity."
Baltimore lawyer Robert S. Hillman, who negotiated for the county, and Suzanne Levin from the county attorney's office, said discrimination was already prohibited under the law. They also said it is part of the nature of collective bargaining that the group doing the bargaining--in this case, the police--be treated differently from other, non-union employes who do not bargain for pay.