Negotiations between the city of Lawrence and its employee groups have never been more simple than they were today, when city officials tentatively approved the Lawrence Police Officers Assn.'s first work agreement proposal exactly as it was presented.
Ray Hummert, city administrative services director, admitted he was stunned by the LPOA's initial proposal, which called for a two-year contract with a 4 percent pay increase each year.
"It's the most realistic proposal I've seen an employee group bring to us, Tony," Hummert told Tony Garcia, president of the LPOA.
Hummert and other city and police administrators reviewed the proposal for only about 40 minutes before returning to the bargaining table and giving it their tentative approval no questions asked. The proposal will be reviewed by City Manager Mike Wildgen and considered for approval by the city commission on June 12.
The LPOA proposal was far less demanding than past work proposals. In 1988, for instance, the police officers' bargaining group asked for a one-year contract with an 8 percent salary increase.
GARCIA SAID the LPOA backed off its previous bargaining strategy this year in an effort to point out that officers are willing to work with the city to solve what they believe is a lack of police department manpower.
"I think the manpower issue is a major reason for it," he said. "I think the officers realize that this is an opportunity to send a message . . . that we are serious about our manpower."
Garcia last week said that police would seeking a one-year contract with increases in wages and benefits a proposal that would have been much harder to negotiate than the two-year pact. Garcia did not completely explain why the LPOA suddenly backed off its original stance, but said members agreed to today's proposal after receiving a "very similar" proposal last weekend from Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin on behalf of city officials.
Garcia called today's proposal a "sacrifice" and said he would be profoundly disappointed if the department does not receive a boost in manpower.
Hummert said today's negotiations were the shortest he has seen during his seven years with the city of Lawrence. And this is the first time in nearly 12 years that the city negotiating team and the LPOA have reached an agreeement without declaring impasse.
THE CONTRACT calls for officers to receive a 4 percent wage increase on Jan. 1, 1991, and another 4 percent increase on Jan. 1, 1992. In addition, the proposal contains a 2 percent "reclassification" increase in July 1991 and would establish a program to replace officers' bullet-proof vests.
The salary and reclassification increases would raise the current base salary for an officer from its current level of $21,320 to $22,180 beginning Jan. 1, 1991. In July, the entry level salary would increase to $22,623.