Police officers not close on contract Union wants 4% raise

three other city locals accepting 2% increase

June 17, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The union that represents Annapolis police officers is no closer to accepting a 2 percent salary increase than it was when contentious negotiations began five months ago, despite a looming deadline and lack of support from three other city unions.

The Professional Firefighters Union and the unit of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that represents white-collar workers have accepted the city's proposal. The AFSCME unit that represents blue-collar workers is expected to accept the contract in a membership vote Friday.

But police union leaders are adamant that they want a 4 percent raise.

"I'm very, very disappointed in the city for making us go through this," said Officer John Miller, chief steward of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, which represents 80 city police officers. "I don't know what will happen now, but it's up to our membership to decide on the city's last offer."

The union has scheduled a membership meeting for June 25 to vote on the contract. The existing contract expires June 29.

"[City officials] have to know this affects morale and the way people do their jobs," Miller said.

All four unions soundly rejected the city's original offer of 1 percent salary increases, but the City Council took pains earlier this month to move money around to give employees at least 2 percent raises.

In addition, police and firefighters would have contributions to their pension fund reduced by 1 percent. Workers would see $600 to $700 more in their paychecks over the year of the contract.

The unions, meanwhile, were asking for an improved retirement plan in which the city would pay more of their health care costs. In addition, the police union wanted the option for officers to retire after 20 years instead of 25, and to be allowed leave for grandparents' funerals. The other unions requested similar leave options.

City officials say they already will spend about $315,000 next year on skyrocketing health care costs for city workers and about two-thirds of city employees will see yearly step increases in salary.

City employees have not received a cost-of-living raise in the past four years -- a reason some unions agreed to the city's proposal this year.

"I don't like going to City Hall and banging my head up against a brick wall," said firefighter Dan Grimes, president of the firefighters union. "We've been burned in the past when we worked without a contract because it gives the administration rights to change our work rules, such as how they'll pay for overtime.

"We just thought, 'Is it worth going back to the table time and time again?' " Grimes said. "We decided it wasn't."

The three union contracts are pending approval by the Annapolis City Council, which could come as early as next week.

As for the police, there is little they can do to fight the proposal. City law bars officers from striking, but they can demonstrate or hold protests.

In April, the union bought full-page advertisements in the Annapolis Capital asking residents to help police officers get the contract they want by lobbying council members. They've also held protests during City Council meetings and at Mayor Dean L. Johnson's groundbreaking ceremony for the city's West Street traffic circle.

"We were the only ones fighting this contract in the first place," said Officer John Lee, a police union shop steward. "Whether our members accept the offer or fight for what they deserve is up to them. I really don't know how they'll vote."

City officials say they are hopeful that the issue will be resolved quickly.

"I'm very pleased that we've worked it out with the other three unions," Johnson said. "I hope that we can continue talking with the police union to get this done with."

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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