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Police union members reject negotiated contract offer

By Staff | Jul 30, 2011

By a near unanimous vote, the police officers from Lodge 33 of the Fraternal Order of Police voted Friday to reject the tentative agreement reached in recent contract negotiations with the city of Cape Coral.

The results were 185 to 1 and should send a strong message of how frustrated the Police Officers of the City of Cape Coral are with the current city administration, union officials said in a prepared statement released late Friday.

City officials could not be immediately reached for comment. An email asking for a response was not returned by press time.

The Police Officers belonging to Lodge 33 of the Fraternal Order of Police have a clause in their current labor contract which calls for Wages and Benefits to be opened for re-negotiation during the life of the contract. This is referred to as a Re-Opener. This is what was tentatively agreed upon and brought back to the general membership for a ratification vote, union officials said.

“FOP members are no stranger to giving back to the City during these tough financial times,” stated Kurt Grau, president of FOP Lodge 33 in the statement. “In fact, FOP members were some of the first to step up to make contract concessions. FOP members, during the life of this contract, have agreed to have contractual pay raises frozen, decrease the number of holidays paid to them, and reduce yearly leave time buy-back. FOP concessions have saved the city over a million dollars, but this seems to have been forgotten.”

The FOP Bargaining Team made several other contract proposals during negotiations that would have already saved the city substantially for this budget year, while not hurting the police officers pay as significantly, but the city rejected these proposals, he said.

The FOP Bargaining Team conceded and tentatively agreed to take a 3 percent pay cut and contribute another 2 percent into their pension bringing the total percentage officers pay into their pension to 9 percent.

Officers believed that the city was in an emergency financial situation as argued by the city labor negotiators during negotiations, according to the statement. However developments since reaching a tentative agreement have impacted the membership’s willingness to make concessions.

“Only days after accepting pay cuts, the City Manager began publicly discussing a bonus for himself,” Grau states. “The City Manager stated the bonus was ‘contractual,’ but the fact is that yearly step increases are contractual for FOP members as well, yet we have forgone them for 3 years. Our membership felt the City Manager receiving a bonus, while workers take yet another wage reduction was insulting and a slap in the face to every police officer who serves and protects this community.”

Cape Coral City Council agreed to pay City Manager Gary King $17,750 in incentive payments for goals achieved. His contract called for up to $20,000.

According to the bargaining unit statement, when negotiations began in November 2010 the city manager submitted a press release projecting an 8 percent reduction in ad valorem tax values with a $9.6 million or more revenue shortfall for the city.

Actual final calculations on July 2 showed that the actual reduction would be 2.5 percent, meaning there was $1.6 million more than expected for the FY 2012 budget.

Members of The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 held labor meetings last week to discuss the tentative agreement and the above cited factors provided for significant debate, according to the release.

“The combination of the previous concessions, improving economic outlook and the City Manager’s refusal to make the same sacrifices our front line public servants are willing to make, led to the FOP’s unanimous rejection of the tentative agreement,” Grau states. “We look forward to continuing negotiations with the city via the collective bargaining process.”

Because this still is an active contract negotiation, the union said it would not comment further.

Source: FOP Lodge 33