Archive for Thursday, July 24, 2008

Police, city talks reach impasse

Firefighter negotiations also likely to stall

A federal mediator will help solve a wage dispute between Lawrence police officers and city leaders.

July 24, 2008


Smaller than normal year-end bonuses have stalled labor talks between Lawrence police officers and City Hall, and it appears likely that talks with Lawrence firefighters are also headed toward an impasse.

On Wednesday, representatives with both the Lawrence Police Officer's Association and the city's management team confirmed that negotiations over a new work agreement for police officers were declared to have reached an impasse last week.

A federal mediator has been called in to help resolve the dispute, which focuses on reductions to year-end longevity bonuses paid to city employees.

Unlike private sector labor disputes, the threat of a strike by police and firefighters is not likely. State law prohibits public employees from going on strike.

"We don't anticipate any impact regarding public safety service as a result of this," said Diane Stoddard, an assistant city manager who is a negotiator for the city. "We have very professional police and fire departments."

But a lingering labor dispute clearly could create other employee problems.

"It definitely would hurt morale in the organization," said Brandon Holloman, a Lawrence firefighter who is the vice president of International Association of Firefighters Local 1596. "The issue of being recognized for tenure and experience is very important to us."

The issue revolves around the city's flagging financial condition. Under City Manager David Corliss' recommended 2009 budget, the annual longevity payment made to city employees with five or more years of service will be cut in half. Under Corliss' plan, which has been endorsed by city commissioners, the longevity payment would be cut from $48 per year to $24 per year. The reduction will save the city about $212,000 in 2009, Stoddard said. The cut would apply to all city employees, not just police and fire employees.

But both police and fire representatives said the cut is too severe in a time period when city employees are facing rising household costs while being asked to do more work to compensate for a shrinking city workforce.

Mike McAtee, chairman of the Lawrence Police Officer's Association, said the reduced longevity bonuses would reduce the bonuses to levels not seen since the late 1970s.

"This is very, very important to our membership," McAtee said. "We work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for this community."

The work agreements, analogous to labor union contracts, for both the police and fire departments expire at the end of the year. The city has been negotiating with both groups in closed-door sessions since early June.

McAtee said his group declared the talks to be at an impasse last week. Holloman said he believes his group will likely do the same when it meets on Monday.

Under city rules, a federal mediator will arrive in the next few days to try to work out a compromise between the two sides. If a compromise isn't reached, both sides will present their "final offer" on the matter. City commissioners then will be asked to choose between the two.

The police and fire negotiations are holding up decisions on what, if any, pay increases other city employees will receive. The city has budgeted $1.3 million for wage increases for city employees in 2009. But the proposed budget does not get into specifics about how that money will be distributed. It also leaves open the possibility of not awarding any cost-of-living increase to employees, but rather basing all increases on performance reviews.


fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

What laws has Olin broken? The only people I've heard talking about this are you and Yellow House, and Yellow House recently deleted a bunch of their stuff on LV, which I can only assume meant none of it was true.Pay them. They've been doing a great job. Every time you see a major crime in this paper, it has been followed with an arrest. From what it says here, they are asking to keep what they have gotten in the past.Same with the fire department. Are you going to tell these guys, "Sorry, your life isn't worth as much as it was last year." Sure, other city employees are also getting cuts. Other city employees don't have a chance that they won't go home because of their job.I want the police and firefighters to be well-compensated and happy, because quite frankly I like the fact that they will show up if something happens to me.

doc1 9 years, 11 months ago

I think the city will get the message when all the officers stop writing tickets in retaliation. They can still enforce traffic without writing a ticket. Nobody can take away officer discretion thanks to the supreme court. They can strike by not writing tickets. The city would cough a lung with a few million dollars not showing up in the general fund.

BorderRat 9 years, 11 months ago

Smitty, Smitty, Smitty.... The Feds can indict a toaster for arson but it doesn't mean they'll get a conviction. By the way, I kind of agree with LawrenceRules on this one.

Yabut 9 years, 11 months ago

As usual, Smitty is wrong. The city does not pay out retirement pensions; instead, all city employees are required to contribute a minimum of 4% of their pay to either the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System or Kansas Police & Fire. I don't think its legal to deny an employee the funds that they've invested, (especially since its required) or the interest earned from their investment.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 11 months ago

As soon as I noticed this headline, my thought process was "Police? Who's the designated fabricator today? yellowhouse, smitty, or wasfreashpowder?" Guess it's smitty.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 11 months ago

And barrypenders really has the best handle on the issue. Congrats.

Jim Phillips 9 years, 11 months ago

"That's funny rite thar, I don't care who y'are!"

Yabut 9 years, 11 months ago

And while state law may prohibit public employees from going on strike, it didn't prevent half of the Topeka FIre department from calling in sick in one day:

monkeywrench1969 9 years, 11 months ago

tj don't even go there. You can find out where she is going with this "cover up" by looking at her past posts. It is like a stalker with a one track mind.

yellowhouse 9 years, 11 months ago

I'll not back down, nor take a fall,I trust in truth devineMy steadfast fight will show them allThat victory is mine!

Jim Phillips 9 years, 11 months ago

smitty,"Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!"Sound familiar?

hk45 9 years, 11 months ago

Please do not bring Olin into this discussion because it does not apply to him. The contract negotiations only deal with the non-salaried officers and detectives. Many of these people have worked many years for this city and it is wrong for the city to turn back time to the 1970s.Maybe more attention should be given to how many jobs Corliss has created at city hall the last few years. The rumor heard around town in the law community is that City Hall is the largest law practice in town. If Corliss had not created so many jobs (lawyers, assistant city managers, assistant to the city manager, budget coordinator, etc) the last few years for his use, then maybe there would be enough money to fund the longevity raises for the city employees (fire, police, and everyone else) who keeps this community a nice place to live.

compmd 9 years, 11 months ago

In Illinois it is not forbidden for public employees to strike, however police are exempted from this. Members of the AFSCME union in Cook County went on strike a few years back and practically shut down the court system for two days. The county got their message, loud and clear. Its a pity all this time is being wasted dillydallying here with a mediator and they still are not getting anywhere.

Janet Lowther 9 years, 10 months ago

"What laws [sic] has Olin broken?"How about the one on perjury?As I understand it, some years ago Olin was caught red handed committing perjury in a case of an elderly driver who wanted to cross Iowa street in post game traffic, and refused to turn right like the officer directing traffic wanted.Olin testified under oath that he was an eyewitness, despite the fact that radio records showed that he did not leave the Law Enforcement & Judicial center 'till several minutes after the event happened.The prosecutor refused to pursue the matter.No wonder people don't trust the police any more.

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