Phoenix police union rejects offer to restore half of pay cut

PHOENIX, AZ &#8211 The union representing rank-and-file police on Wednesday rejected the city’s two-year labor-contract offer that would restore half of the pay cuts city workers took two years ago.

The police union wants full pay restored.

After months of negotiations, City Manager David Cavazos has gotten six of the city’s seven labor unions and associations, representing about 15,000 city employees, to tentatively sign on for a 1.6 percent increase in wages and benefits for the coming fiscal 2012-13.

The increase would restore half of the 3.2 percent in compensation cuts unions agreed to two years ago as the city was facing a $277 million budget deficit.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association members had been meeting since Friday to vote on whether to accept the city’s proposed contract for 2012 to 2014. The city’s offer was rejected by 90percent of the membership.

PLEA chief negotiator Will Buividas said it was the largest turnout in PLEA history. He wouldn’t disclose how many members voted.

Cavazos said he and PLEA leaders are scheduled to continue negotiations on Monday. If the union and the city manager do not come to an agreement before April 14, the City Council will have to impose a contract, which has never occurred in city history, Mayor Greg Stanton said.

The agreements other groups signed would allow for the other half of the pay cuts to be returned in 2013-14 if certain economic triggers were met. If the economy is particularly good, city employees could receive pay raises on top of the pay restorations in 2013-14.

“Our Number 1 asset is our people,” Cavazos said about why it was important to strike the compromise with city labor groups.

If the council approves Cavazos’ recommendation for all seven of the labor groups, the 1.6percent compensation increase will cost the city about $22.2 million for fiscal 2012-13, which starts July1. If the economic triggers are met and the 3.2percent cuts are fully restored, the current contract proposal will cost the city $26.7 million for 2013-14.

City officials are projecting a surplus of $10 million to $15 million in the General Fund budget during the next fiscal year, which begins July1.

City management is relying on the extra money to add $5.4 million in expanded public services, such as increased library hours and additional paramedics. About $63 million in programs and services were cut two years ago to balance the budget amid the economic downturn.

Merit raises and longevity bonuses that were controversial during last year’s budget hearings are included in these contract proposals. Merit-pay increases would cost the city $12.5 million for 2012-13 and longevity bonuses an additional $15.6million.

Buividas said the city should fully roll back wages and salaries to what they were two years ago, before the union agreed to concessions.

“The city is breaking their promise,” Buividas said. “They said they would restore everything to 3.2percent, and now they’re refusing to do so.”

In PLEA’s last offer to the city, the labor association asked for wages to roll back to levels from two years ago for 2012-13 and requested a 4 percent total compensation increase in 2013-14.

PLEA represents more than 2,500 rank-and-file police officers, of which about 2,300 are dues-paying members of the association.

Rolling back the 3.2 percent in pay-and-benefit cuts was “for collective-bargaining purposes” only, and there was nothing guaranteeing it would be part of the 2012-13 budget, Cavazos said.

Cavazos said the deals he negotiated with the other labor groups are all the city can afford for the coming year.

“I believe that is the money that’s available,” Cavazos said. “If we do anything more, we’re in a situation where we have to look at other measures.”

Pete Gorraiz, president of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, said the group also expects a full rollback to compensation levels seen before the pay cuts were implemented in 2010.

But Gorraiz said he signed a tentative agreement for a restoration of half of the pay cuts because, although revenue is increasing in Phoenix, tax collections still aren’t high enough to support anything else.

“It’s certainly not what we were hoping for, but this is fair and equitable,” Gorraiz said.

Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio worries that it is premature to offer city employees more compensation.

DiCiccio said the 1.6percent “restoration” is actually a raise after including employee-longevity bonuses and merit pay raises on top of the restorations. He said the combination of restorations, merit and longevity combined over the past two years averages out to $7,300 per employee.

“You can put any language you want on it, but the bottom line is the city of Phoenix has to make the determination between giving pay raises or restoring services to seniors and children and getting rid of the food tax,” DiCiccio said.

In 2010, Phoenix levied an emergency 2 percent food tax that generates about $50 million citywide annually. The food tax is set to expire in 2015.

From The Arizona Republic.