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Santa Barbara, Police Officers Union Stuck at Contract Impasse

City Council will consider two proposals from the POA; if they're deemed unacceptable, it may opt to adopt its best and final offer

Months of meetings and one state mediator later, the City of Santa Barbara and the Police Officers Association have yet to come to an agreement on the union’s expired contract.

After offers and counter-offers by both parties resulted in an impasse, a state negotiations mediator was brought in. And after three meetings, he relinquished jurisdiction back to the city on Oct. 11 because he couldn’t reach a compromise either, according to city employee relations manager Kristy Schmidt.

Since then, the city has received two proposals from the POA, and the City Council will consider the latter in Tuesday’s closed session discussions. If it’s not acceptable to the council, a meeting will be held Thursday consider adopting the city’s last, best and final offer to the POA.

Terms of a contract can be imposed after good faith negotiations, as set out in the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.

The POA questions the city’s finances and brought in economist Peter Donohue to further investigate. He has called the city’s finances “robust” and insists there is enough money to fully fund the police department, but a final report is awaiting yet undelivered documents from the city, union president Sgt. Mike McGrew said. The association is no fan of City Administrator Jim Armstrong and claims the city isn’t being transparent with budget information, which has motivated it to turn down past offers by the city.

The POA’s latest three-year offer includes a 3.5 percent contribution into CalPERS, suspension of vacation cash-outs and a few other things, McGrew said. It’s modeled after the firefighters’ agreement, with some recovery and raises in the third year of the contract, he said.

Depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s closed sessions, Wednesday night’s membership meeting could include a vote to ratify a contract or a call to arms, McGrew said.

“I don’t think people are going to be happy with it either way,” he said.

There were 133 sworn officers as of August, and the department’s budget was $33.6 million in 2009.

The city has been asking each union to agree to labor concessions, mostly in the form of furloughs and the suspension of cash-outs. In June, council members assumed that each union would concede 6 percent to 8 percent, as they added $4 million back to the budget for a “wish list” of recovered items.

A three-year proposal has some advantages, Schmidt said.

“From a negotiator’s point of view, the longer term the agreement is, the longer you keep labor peace, and the employer does put value on that,” she said.

The city is just beginning negotiations with the hourly unit and SEIU Local 620 Treatment and Patrol unit, Schmidt said, adding that TAP, which includes water, wastewater, airport and harbor workers, doesn’t affect the general fund, so contracts are being extended three months.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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