Police union, city reach deal to save officer jobs
Without disclosing the terms, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner announced late Friday that the Spokane Police Guild had reached a tentative agreement with the city that keeps 35 police officers from losing their jobs on Christmas.
The guild members have not yet voted on the agreement, which must be forwarded to the City Council for a vote, Verner said.
“I’m pleased because this protects public safety in our community,” Verner said. “That’s why we worked so hard on it. We just stayed at it until we reached an agreement.”
The deal allows the city to keep every commissioned officer who faced layoff in 2011 as the city grapples with a budget shortfall. It follows a similar agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 29 to prevent 13 layoffs and preserve nearly half of the 15 unfilled firefighter positions targeted for elimination.
In September, Verner asked union members to forgo their 2011 pay raises and to cover a larger portion of their medical coverage to prevent job losses.
Firefighters agreed to forego raises next year and to pick up any increased costs of employee medical benefits above 4 percent in 2011.
Last week, Verner rejected the police guild’s first concession proposal. The union submitted a new concept on Wednesday.
City administrator Ted Danek said city officials and guild leaders met until around 10 p.m. Thursday and started work again Friday morning until a deal was reached late morning.
“The guild’s offer is consistent with the mayor’s request and went further,” said Danek, noting that the police guild conceded more than the fire union.
He said union membership will vote on the deal next week. Verner said she hopes the agreement will be on the City Council’s agenda for ratification on Dec. 13.
While the details of the agreement were not announced, they follow months of bickering between guild leaders and Verner.
In September, Guild President Ernie Wuthrich – who could not be reached late Friday for comment – warned city leaders that if any guild members lost their jobs, the union would challenge those job losses with the state Public Employment Relations Commission.
That announcement came the same day Verner accused guild leaders of being dishonest after they distributed to union members a list of salaries to showing raises received by more than 70 city employees from 2008 to 2010.
Many of those increases were either wrong or out of context, said Verner, who at the time characterized the release as an attempt to cause strife among city workers.
Wuthrich, in his letter, wrote that laying off officers violates the city’s contract with the guild.
“The act of laying off any of our members prior to the city dispatching its duty to bargain that change in working conditions will result in an immediate filing of a grievance and/or the petitioning of PERC concerning an Unfair Labor Practice,” Wuthrich wrote. “The guild will seek whatever legal remedies possible.”
First-year Spokane police officers earn about $43,000 annually. With 10 years of experience, they make almost $70,000. Detectives start at about $74,000 and earn more than $77,000 with 10 years of experience. In 2010, guild members didn’t get a raise. Instead, they received an extra 52 hours of vacation. Last year, the guild was the only city union that didn’t make the full amount concessions requested by Verner.
Danek said the city isn’t close to reaching any other agreements with other city unions. That means more than 20 city workers likely will be out of a job on Christmas.
Reporter Jonathan Brunt contributed to this story.