Representatives from the City of San Antonio and the police union have met twice so far for court-ordered mediation talks, Mayor Ivy Taylor said during an editorial board meeting with the Rivard Report on Tuesday.
“Both parties were in attendance and I think the second meeting was all day,” Taylor said. “I would say there are some glimmers (of hope).”
Because of the prickly relationship between the City and the San Antonio Police Officers Association, and lawsuits brought by the city that challenges the fire and police union contracts’ evergreen clauses, Taylor declined to go into further detail.
It’s been more than two years since collective bargaining talks opened with the aim of reaching a new contract by June 2014. The City’s insistence on union members paying a greater share of their health care costs, including monthly premiums, quickly became the central point of contention with both sides repeatedly disagreeing on the other’s financial projections. Civilian employees of the City pay a far greater share of their health care costs, including monthly premiums. The City has set a ceiling on public safety spending of 66% of the General Fund budget.
Talks have started and stopped on several occasions, and the previous five-year contract expired on Sept. 30, 2014 without a new agreement in sight. All union members continue to receive their salaries and benefits at the same level now that the 10-year evergreen clause has kicked in with no contract. While they do not receive cost of living adjustment, police officers continue to receive longevity pay while “in evergreen.” The City filed suit in late 2014, claiming the unusual length of the clause served as disincentive for union leaders to negotiate. So far, the city’s argument that the clause is unconstitutional has not met with success. A state district judge ruled against the City in December 2015, a ruling the City has appealed. Both sides have said they expect the case to end up before the Texas Supreme Court.
The police union has said it will not return to the negotiating table until the lawsuit is dropped. Ever since, expectations have been low for a resumption of productive talks. Mayor Taylor and other city officials contacted after the editorial board meeting did not say whether the two sides have a third mediation session scheduled. Police union representatives did not respond to requests for comment. The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association has yet to begin contract negotiations, but it has been fighting a lawsuit against its own evergreen clause in court.
Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor makes an announcement on the steps of City Hall. File Photo by Scott Ball.
Read all the stories on the City and police union negotiations in the Rivard Report archive.