City and police union representatives have two meetings on the books this week for Tuesday and Friday, both at 10 a.m. in the Municipal Plaza Building. The proverbial ball has been in the San Antonio Police Officers Association‘s court since the City made an offer on February 20 that included a better wage package, and a longer contract. Since then, the City has proposed a health care package that removes premiums for union members but requires premiums for dependents.
The latter contract term represents a large compromise on the City’s side, which has said uniformed police and firefighters would have to pay premiums to make the numbers work within the City’s budget.
It’s been weeks since the offer was made, but the union has not yet responded formally.
The City has since added more details to the proposed contract, City Manager Sheryl Sculley said last week.
Click here to download the City’s health benefits proposal.
Tuesday’s meeting will be only the second time both sides met after a long interlude that began when talks reached a dead-end on Nov. 3 last year.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story overlooked the removal of premiums for union members.
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 new proposed health care plan would remove monthly premiums for union members. 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 $13,600 per uniformed employee in fiscal year 2016 under the newest proposed plan, compared to $11,300 under the previous plans – still far above the $7,700 it currently spends on its civilian employees.
Without any changes to the current contract the cost would be $20,000 per employee.
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 have 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.
*Featured/top image: Co-counsel for the City Bettye Lynn of Fort Worth (left) describes various contract adjustments to police union representatives with (from left) Laurie Steward, former City Attorney Michael Bernard, and First City Attorney Martha Sepeda. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Read all the stories on the City and police union negotiations in the Rivard report archive.