The San Antonio Police Association negotiating team, including benefits expert Randy McGraw (center, left) and attorney and lead negotiator Ron DeLord (far right). Photo by Robert Rivard.
The San Antonio Police Association negotiating team, including benefits expert Randy McGraw (center, left) and attorney and lead negotiator Ron DeLord (far right). Photo by Robert Rivard.

A collective bargaining session between negotiators for the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Officers Association scheduled for Thursday has been canceled, a City spokesperson announced late Wednesday afternoon. Thursday’s meeting was set to be the second time both sides met after a long interlude that began when talks reached a dead-end on Nov. 3.

Police Union President Mike Helle and the union’s chief negotiator, Georgetown lawyer Ron DeLord, could not be reached on deadline, but it appears the union team is preparing a response or counter-proposal to the City’s offer made last Friday that included a better wage package, a longer contract, and graduated reductions in some benefits the City originally had wanted to eliminate from any new contract.

Read more: City Increases Wage Offer to Police Union

“We are encouraged that the Union appears to be working towards a resolution,” said Di Galvan, the City’s director of communications and public affairs. “The City made a very reasonable offer, and if the Union needs a little more time to analyze it and communicate with its members, we are happy to oblige.”

The City offer includes a proposed four-year contract. The City previously offered a three-year deal, while the police union has wanted to continue with five-year deals. It also includes a 9.5% wage increase over the four-year life of the contract. Police officers would receive a lump sum bonus equal to 2% upon signing of a new collective bargaining agreement. Wages would then increase by 2% in fiscal year 2016, which begins Oct. 1, 2015, another 2.5% in fiscal year 2017, and 3% in fiscal year 2018.

The City’s health care plan would require all union members to pay monthly premiums. Union members currently do not pay any premiums and contribute very little to other health care costs. The issue has been the major sticking point between the two sides since talks first started last April. The City would spend $11,300 per uniformed employee under its proposed plan, less than the $20,000 per employee it would face without any changes, yet far above the $7,700 it currently spends on its civilian employees. In addition to the better wage offer, the City moved from its prior  position that annual health care costs not exceed $10,000 per union member. The two sides seem to closing the gap in their respective position on sharing health care costs.

City officials said Friday that the enhanced wage package would add $56.9 million over the city’s current fiscal year 2015 budget, but would hold public safety spending at the 66% of the general budget threshold. That assumed the firefighters union, which has not yet come to the bargaining table, would accept whatever wage and benefits package the police union agrees to accept.

Both sides hired actuaries to help arrive at more accurate projected health care costs, each side presenting its own proposal and projections while also scrutinizing what was put forward by the other side. Houston attorney Jeff Londa, the City’s chief negotiator, said the cost to cover each employee was a number that both sides seemed to be closer in the way of agreement.

The police union is unlikely to accept the package as proposed by the City’s negotiating team on Friday, according to one source familiar with the police union’s thinking, who predicted that DeLord will return to the table asking for a richer wage deal over five years.

*Featured/top image: The San Antonio Police Association negotiating team, including benefits expert Randy McGraw (center, left) and attorney and lead negotiator Ron DeLord (far right). Photo by Robert Rivard.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor of the San Antonio Report.