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City offers two-week extension to police union

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

Ten police officers will not see a scheduled reduction in their paycheck or pay step next week as the city tries to have further discussions with the local union.
On Wednesday, the city offered a two-week extension to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 to reach a mutually agreeable resolution regarding a group of officers who did not obtain educational credits. Reductions and repayment plans were scheduled to begin on the officers’ paychecks issued Jan. 27.
“By offering the two-week extension, the city is continuing its good faith approach and giving FOP representatives another opportunity to discuss the decision through the collective bargaining process,” the city’s spokeswoman, Connie Barron, wrote in a prepared statement.
“The city is offering to meet with the union anytime over the course of the next 15 days to try to reach an agreement,” Barron continued.
If no agreement is reached between the city and union, the reductions and repayment plans will be reflected on the officers’ paychecks issued Feb. 10.
The union’s attorney did not return a message seeking comment.
The Cape Coral Police Department announced last month that it would seek repayment from the officers for their failing to earn 60 educational credits, which are a provision for employment and which the officers agreed to earn within four years at the time of their hiring.
According to officials, the education requirement is mandatory for officers to move up in “step” levels and receive the higher pay provided at each level. As of Wednesday, the city was seeking repayment from 10 officers for the additional salary dollars that they received but reportedly had not earned.
The city is seeking about $91,275 in reimbursements. The total amounts vary from officer to officer, but they range from about $3,554 to $23,195.
The police department also announced last month that the officers would return to what the city determined to be their appropriate step and their pay would be cut by 10 percent. Of the 10 officers involved, eight are scheduled to receive a pay step reduction in February if an agreement is not reached.
The city also told the officers that they must obtain the necessary 60 credits — 15 credits per year over 48 months — beginning in January.
On Jan. 4, the union filed an unfair labor practice claim with Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission. It charged that the city entered into illegal pre-employment contracts and coerced employees to enforce the contracts.
The union also contended that city has refused to bargain in good faith.
Steven Meck, general counsel for the commission, dismissed the complaint Friday after reviewing the charge. He concluded that a violation had not been established because the charge that the contracts are illegal is untimely and the union was not specific in its allegation regarding the request to bargain.
City Manager Gary King, who came up with the two-week extension with the city’s labor attorney, said the move was partly in response to the complaint that the city has not bargained in good faith with union representatives. The extension is to accommodate them and offer a shot at resolving the issue.
“To be very open and willing to negotiate with them to see if there’s any changes or modifications that be be reached,” he said, adding that the delay does not mean that city officials have not been open thus far.
“I hope that we can agree, that we can move forward on this,” King said.
The union has 20 days from the state commission’s dismissal to amend its charge or appeal the charge. The union’s attorney reported Tuesday that his client intends to amend the charge and refile it with the commission. He said the union has identified the “technical deficiencies” within the initial charge.