Arbitrator Rules For Wage Freeze For Police

DAVENPORT, IA &#8211 Members of Davenport’s police union will undergo a wage freeze for the current fiscal year, matching the city’s agreements with five other unions, an arbitrator has ruled.

The decision was handed down Thursday by arbitrator Rex Wiant, who heard evidence from both sides in a hearing last week.

The terms of the contracts with the Teamsters, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME Library, firefighters union and bus drivers union included no wage increases this year, a 1 percent increase in fiscal year 2014, followed by a 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2014, and a 1.5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2015.

The police union was seeking a 2.5 percent general wage increase for the current fiscal year.

The arbitrator’s decision is binding for one year, so future general wage increases for the police union will have to be negotiated. The decision is retroactive to July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

The union and city went to arbitration after the sides reached an impasse in negotiations. In his decision on the wage increase, Wiant called the city’s offer the most reasonable, because it is what the city’s other unions had accepted.

The police union had argued that police unions in Iowa’s other large cities received, on average, 2.4 percent general wage increases in their current contracts.

A new round of bargaining between the city and the police union will begin again in earnest some time this fall, either in September or October, union president Shawn Roth said.

“We haven’t yet sat down as a group to talk about what topics to bargain over,” he said.

The city has “me, too” clauses in the contracts of the city’s other bargaining units, such as the fire department, so if one unit is to get a raise, the other bargaining units get one, too, Roth said.

“I wouldn’t expect to see them (the city) bargaining too much,” he said.

He said the city was threatening to lay off police officers if the police union received a raise this time.

“They don’t have any reason to lay off anyone now, and they didn’t before,” Roth said. “They didn’t make the case of inability to pay in the bargaining process, and if you look at the financial portion of their paperwork, they have the reserves.

“What they considered to be doom and gloom wasn’t the case.”

Roth said the department already has lost four officers to attrition, with Capt. David Struckman’s retirement on Aug. 31 making it five. Additionally, he said, one police officer has disability paperwork pending approval.

Roth said he hopes the city will replace that officer because the department has a legitimate opening.

The city cut 30 positions across several departments in its current fiscal year budget.

The arbitrator also ruled on health insurance employee contributions, tuition reimbursement and vacation accumulation, finding in favor of the city on the tuition and vacation time issues.

Wiant found in favor of the union on health insurance contributions. The city wanted an increase in contributions, but the arbitrator said that with no general wage increase, an increase in health insurance contributions is “not tenable,” noting the other bargaining units didn’t face increases.

“The one thing that can be said for certain is employee contributions will be increasing, but that is for the future,” Wiant wrote.

The city budgeted for health insurance contribution increase from officers, but the arbitrator’s ruling won’t require any cuts or new revenue, according to a memorandum from budget manager Brandon Wright to city administrator Craig Malin, finance director Alan Guard and police chief Frank Donchez. The cost is expected to be $26,640.

Wiant ruled to keep tuition reimbursements at the $1,100 level and vacation accumulation the same as in the previous contract.

City officials declined to comment.

From The Quad-City Times