Mayor Ivy Taylor invited Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio police union, to City Hall Thursday for a one-on-one conversation intended to restart the suspended collective bargaining talks.
It was both an invitation and a summons, given Taylor’s political standing after her June 13 runoff victory over former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who was endorsed by the police and firefighter unions. Taylor sent Helle a letter following their unannounced meeting, laying out her “expectations” for the resumption of talks and agreement on a new contract by July 31.
Without such an agreement, Taylor pointedly wrote in the letter, the police union will forfeit any pay increase in 2015.
The police union endorsement of Van de Putte triggered an abrupt end to contract talks on March 31, yet the two unions’ collective political muscle and campaign spending seemed to have little or no effect on the election outcomes, either in the mayor’s race or in the case of Council incumbents the unions did not support.
“Thank you for meeting with me this morning at my request,” Taylor wrote Helle. “As mayor, I believe the community is ready to see the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations come to a successful resolution. As discussed, here are my expectations.
“The police labor union must return to the bargaining table as soon as possible and respond to the City’s March 20 proposal…With the FY2016 Budget process already underway, time is running out. We want to finalize the contract by July 31, 2015. If there is no agreement by this date, it will not be possible to offer a pay increase for officers in FY2015 (which ends Sept. 30), and the City Council’s direction to the negotiating team from the beginning has been no retroactive raises.”
The City made a series of improved offers to the police union in the March talks. The March 20 offer, still on the table, upped the City’s wage offer from 9.5% to 10.8% over the proposed four-year contract, including a onetime 2% bonus upon contract ratification by union members, and raises of 3% on Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year, a 2.8% raise on Oct. 1, 2016 and a 3% raise on Oct. 1, 2017.
The police union had asked for 13.4% increases in wages over that time, and an actual wage increase rather than a onetime lump sum payment once it agrees to a new contract.
The City, in turn, has told the Union it will not agree to any contract that increases public safety spending higher than the current 66% of the General Fund budget, the highest of any Texas city. The City’s March 16 proposal contained a major concession, eliminating the demand that union members pay monthly health care premiums for the first time. Under the latest proposal, union members would only pay premiums for their spouses and dependents who elect to be covered.
“I remain committed to ensuring that the total public safety budget does not exceed 66% of the General Fund budget,” Taylor stated in her letter to Helle. “The City’s numbers and assumptions have been independently verified; we will not spend any more time verifying them.
“Finally,” Taylor wrote, “The City’s negotiating team has my full support; they will negotiate the contract under City Council policy direction. The City’s March 20th proposal is both fair to the officers and affordable to taxpayers, and we look forward to your response to it at our next bargaining meeting.”
City Council traditionally recesses for summer break in July, but Taylor ‘s letter states the City’s negotiating team led by Houston attorney Jeff Londa is ready to meet almost immediately. City officials said Londa has sent his police union counterpoint, Georgetown attorney Ron DeLord, a letter suggesting meeting dates in late June and July.
City officials said they will now await the police union’s response.
Read all the stories on the City and police union negotiations in the Rivard report archive.