August 14, 2009 in City

Union first to make concession

Small police group gives up retirement match; city seeks sacrifices to avoid layoffs
By The Spokesman-Review
 

One of Spokane’s smallest unions has agreed to concessions next year to avoid layoffs, making it the first city bargaining group to do so.

The Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association last week agreed to give up a portion of its retirement plan in 2010. Its decision likely will save at least one police officer’s job, said Capt. Steve Braun, president of the association.

“If we can keep every one of these guys from being laid off, it’s a benefit to them and the city,” Braun said.

Mayor Mary Verner has told unions that half of the city’s expected $7 million deficit will be made up through concessions or employee layoffs. Each union was given an amount it would have to give up to avoid layoffs. Her deadline to reach agreements is Aug. 28.

Higher ranked police officers such as lieutenants and captains likely wouldn’t lose jobs in the event of cuts because its members have seniority.

City Administrator Ted Danek said all city unions are working with administrators to meet goals.

“They’re all saying, ‘We’ll work with you,’ ” Danek said. “I am optimistic that that goal is in sight.”

Most city employees have pensions and deferred compensation plans in which the city matches the worker’s contributions. The city’s deferred compensation plans are similar to 401(k)s, popular retirement plans in the private sector. Employees invest part of their pay in a fund and the city matches that up to 3 percent for captains and 3.5 percent for lieutenants.

To meet Verner’s goal for the captains and lieutenants, the association agreed to give up the city’s match. Salaries, pensions and other benefits will not be affected.

Human Resources Director Dave Chandler said the association was asked to concede $62,000 from what its contract otherwise would have cost the city in 2010. Because the compensation of five nonunion administrative employees, including police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, is tied to the contract, the association’s decision will save the city about $85,000, Braun said.

Braun praised Verner’s strategy for dealing with the city’s deficit.

“I really appreciate what she’s done and how she’s really handled this economic downturn,” he said.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email