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City, police union reach tentative contract agreements

By Staff | Jun 23, 2011

The city of Cape Coral and the local police union entered into tentative agreements Wednesday in their contract negotiations.
The city’s labor team and representatives from the Cape Coral Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 settled on a 3 percent pay reduction for officers, sergeants and lieutenants, and 2 percent pension contribution increase.
The Cape police has 187 officers, 23 sergeants and five lieutenants.
“The other bargaining units signed off on it, so we understood that was probably going to be the bottom line,” Kurt Grau, the union’s president, said.
“We’re not thrilled with it, obviously,” he said. “We’re giving up money.”
The city had originally proposed a 6 percent pay cut, followed by 5 percent, while the union had recently stuck with 2 percent — up from 1 percent.
According to John Hament, the city’s labor attorney, the tentative police contracts mean an annual savings of about $828,000 for the city. Officers and sergeants are part of one bargaining unit and lieutenants are another.
The city has been negotiating contracts with eight bargaining units — two from police, two from fire and four general. The estimated annual savings from those tentative agreements is more than $4.7 million.
“The expenditures of the city outweigh the revenue stream of the city by several million,” Hament said of the city’s efforts to save money.
He added that the city is appreciative of the police union’s concessions.
“We’re very sensitive to the fact this has been a very difficult and painful process,” Hament said, adding that the city knows it involves “givebacks” on the employees’ part. “I’m grateful that we were able to reach a tentative agreement as to both contracts without having to go to impasse.”
Grau noted that the union has made concessions in the past.
“It seems the city has forgotten those things and wants more,” he said.
During the negotiations, the union had asked that at the end of the fiscal year — Sept. 30 — the salary freeze be lifted and all officers advance to their correct pay step level. As officers advance in steps, they earn the higher pay provided at each level.
That proposal is not part of either tentative agreement.
“I think it’s going to affect morale,” Grau said.
He explained that there are other job openings across the state, and that officers will look to other agencies because of the freeze. Grau was aware Wednesday of about 15 Cape officers who have applications in elsewhere.
“The money that the city invested on new employees is going to cost them more in the long run,” he said.
Hament noted that all eight units’ contracts expire in September.
“Bargaining, ideally, will start before then but may continue (beyond that month),” he said. “It would be unacceptable to the city to have a major pay increase incur.”
Something new written into the tentative police agreements is the creation of a joint committee that will review health insurance-related issues. Union representatives said the group has been asking for this for a couple years.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to look into different insurance proposals, not just for employees, but the city,” Grau said. “Maybe we can get insurance costs lowered.”
“It’s definitely a positive,” he said.
The union must now notify its members of the tentative agreements and provide members with 30 days to review the contracts. The board then has one week to vote on the agreements and provide the city with its answer.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the membership to decide if it’s appropriate or not,” Grau said, adding that he is unsure of what the membership will decide.