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Speaking of Pay Raises and Union Contracts...

Several of the city's 14 public employee unions have already settled on new three-year contracts that allow, in general, for 2 percent annual pay raises.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt indicated in his remarks on the budget last week that all city unions are getting the same deal when it comes to salaries in new collective bargaining contracts -- 2 percent each year for three years.

The first of the 14 employee unions to actually settle their new contracts with the city were the two bargaining units that represent police captains and all other officers, about 100 employees in total. That agreement was inked back in February.

The largest union, the Peabody Federation of Teachers, and several other bargaining units representing school employees still have yet to settle, but Bettencourt expects that to happen in the coming weeks.

The police contract, just like the raises now approved for non-union workers, is a three-year deal effective July 1, 2012 until June 30, 2015. Police will receive a 2 percent annual pay raise each year and the agreement also contains some other concessions.

The unions will share drug testing results with the city and allow the city to promote officers via an assessment center system, which would factor in how officers handled different scenarios in addition to how well they scored on promotional exams.

The system is similar to the process often used today in hiring or promoting a new chief or deputy chief, and remains within Civil Service and may not be as intensive of a trial.

The matter of assessment centers arose, after a fashion, earlier this spring when Bettencourt successfully petitioned the City Council to agree to remove both police and fire chief's posts from Civil Service. The city now waits for state lawmakers to approve a home rule petition to that effect.

Bettencourt wants to use an assessment center free and clear of Civil Service restraints when picking a replacement for retiring Chief Robert Champagne, but said he had no intention of removing all officers from Civil Service.

He said an assessment center can challenge a candidate’s entire skill set and be tailored to unique needs and issues in Peabody. Candidates for the top job would be evaluated on "real-world skills," high-pressure scenarios, leadership, media savvy and conflict resolution, in addition to an exam.

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