San Jose Police Officers Vote 954-3 To Reject 3 Percent Raise

SAN JOSE, CA &#8211 San Jose’s police union Wednesday announced the officers have emphatically rejected a 3-percent raise offer and demanded the city double it to end the ongoing pay feud they blame for thinning the department’s ranks.

“Our members know their worth,” John Robb, vice president of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, said in a Wednesday letter to city negotiators, “and will not accept a proposal that will not slow or stop the exodus of San Jose police officers leaving to work for other agencies.”

City negotiators had complained that the officers’ association had doomed the vote on the city’s one-year, 3-percent raise offer by urging rejection, wasting time on a membership vote without tendering a counter-offer. Just two officers voted for the 3-percent raise, and 954 were against.

“We have continued our efforts to reach an agreement with the POA that includes pay raises for police officers,” Jennifer Schembri, deputy director of employee relations, wrote to Robb before the vote. “The POA’s decision to take an approach that will ensure a no vote just makes the situation worse.”

The two sides have been feuding for much of the year over a new contract. Officers, along with other city employees and elected officials, accepted 10-percent pay cuts to limit layoffs during the recent economic downturn. Now officers demand that San Jose at least restore the lost pay, which they say has held them at 2009 pay levels, if not additional raises beyond that. They note that officers have been retiring and resigning to work for other departments at unprecedented rates because San Jose’s pay and benefits are no longer competitive.

The officers and other city unions also are locked in a legal battle with the city over a 2012 ballot measure to reduce future pension benefits that the unions call illegal and city leaders say was needed to tame retirement costs that more than tripled over a decade and continue to rise. Both sides are awaiting a ruling after a trial in July.

The salary dispute went before a retired judge serving as an arbitrator, who under limits voters approved in 2010 ruled in July that he could not award any raises the officers had sought because the city’s benefit costs already had exceeded average revenue growth.

City leaders don’t dispute their pay and benefits are no longer competitive for officers but insist the city cannot afford the raises the officers want without cuts to other programs and services. Other city unions have agreed on 2-percent raises.

Deputy City Manager Alex Gurza said the officers’ 6-percent counter-offer was actually the same as a prior offer and that the city’s 3-percent was a counter-offer to that. He said that while city officials were disappointed the union leadership recommended a no vote, the city would continue to try to reach a pay agreement with the officers.

“I hope we can get there,” Gurza said.

From The San Jose Mercury News

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