City of Lawrence offers police union compromise on pay

photo by: Journal-World Illustration

Lawrence Police Department logo, Lawrence City Hall

City officials told representatives of the local police officers union that they were willing to compromise regarding the department’s pay plan as long as key concerns the city has with the union’s contract are addressed.

At a contract negotiations meeting Friday afternoon, Assistant City Manager Casey Toomay told representatives of the Lawrence Police Officers Association that the city would be willing to abandon its previously proposed overhaul of the department’s pay structure as long as agreement could be reached on all remaining items in the contract, particularly the issue of management rights and equity among departments. Toomay said the city’s new proposal, which calls for funding the contract’s current pay plan, was being made to advance the discussion.

“It’s a pretty significant change in our proposal and not our preferred pay plan, but we are willing to make the proposal in exchange for continued discussion and negotiation on some of the other city interests that we’ve talked about,” Toomay said.

The city proposed fully funding the current pay plan for officers and detectives, which increases their rate of pay by 2.5 percent annually and offers additional pay increases based on merit. The city proposal states that plan is market competitive and that no general wage increase would be made next year. For 2020, the city is proposing a 1 percent increase to the pay grade for officers and detectives.

LPOA Chairman Drew Fennelly was not happy with the city’s previously proposed pay structure, which required officers to rise to the newly created rank of master police officer to reach the top of the pay scale. Fennelly told Toomay that proposal had “a lot of people in the department talking” and that going back to the current pay plan would help negotiations.

“That we are talking about this pay plan again, I think will allow us to get a lot of stuff done, and I think we will be able to come to an agreement,” Fennelly said.

Fennelly also asked Toomay to further explain the city’s interests regarding the rest of the contract. Toomay said that the city had been pretty clear that one of its interests was making sure the contract was in line with the city’s resolution regarding employee unions that guarantees certain management rights.

The resolution states that management rights extend to several components and are not subject to negotiation. Those include the right to direct the work of employees; maintain the efficiency of governmental operations; and initiate, prepare, certify and administer the budget. City Manager Tom Markus previously made proposals regarding several sections of the contract that he said restricted management authority.

Secondly, Toomay said the city is interested in ensuring “internal equity,” or making sure that the benefits and other compensation provided to officers is in line with what is provided to other city employees. She said the city should not be providing police with benefits, such as extra holidays and personal days, that the city cannot afford to extend to all its employees.

Though the city was providing a new pay proposal, Toomay emphasized that if agreement could not be reached regarding the rest of the contract, that the city reserved the right to go back to its original proposal.

“We don’t want to give up our right to go back to that other one, because it is the most sustainable and makes the most sense from a management perspective,” Toomay said.

Originally, the LPOA proposed a 5.5 percent pay increase at all levels for officers and detectives for next year. Earlier this week, the LPOA amended that proposal to request a 3 percent increase to the pay grade for 2019 and an additional 3 percent increase in 2020.

The city’s employment agreement with the LPOA covers wages, benefits and working conditions for officers and detectives and expires at the end of this year. Friday’s meeting concluded the nonmediated portion of contract negotiations. Per the resolution governing union negotiations, a mediator will take part if negotiations are not concluded by July 1. The next meeting between the city and the LPOA will be from 1 to 5 p.m. July 9 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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