City Council okays new police and fire contracts
New police and fire contracts designed to keep a lid on costs and buy the city some labor peace over the next five years were approved by the City Council on Tuesday night.
The council voted 3-1 to approve contracts with unions representing police officers, firefighters and their supervisors. The approval resolves a grievance filed by firefighters that could have cost Alameda more than $7 million through 2017 if the city lost a legal challenge.
Under terms of the contracts, Alameda’s public safety employees will pay slightly more than the maximum pension contribution required of public employees as part of state pension reform.
Future pay raises for police and firefighters will be tied to a complex formula that takes into account city revenues to the general fund and other local taxes in each year of the contract. Employees will be entitled to pay hikes equaling 50 percent of the percentage growth each year with a minimum of 1.5 percent and a maximum of 4 percent.
But cops and firefighters can see their paychecks increase by taking part in a Career Development Incentive Program which rewards employees who maintain their required public safety certifications and learn new skills.
That program was one of the contact provisions that led the fire unions to drop a grievance over retention pay given to police but not fire employees.
The union maintained that a clause in the current contract entitled them to the same monetary benefits. The dispute was headed toward arbitration but the legal efforts were halted to resolve the conflict through contract negotiations.
On Friday, City Manager John Russo released a memo from City Attorney Janet Kern outlining the $7 million in back pay the city would have to spend if the grievance was upheld.
Russo said the city stands to save up to $5 million through lower pension and health care costs, but the contract package will cost the city and additional $1.1 million over the five-year term.
That did not sit well with Treasurer Kevin Kennedy, who maintained that any additional expense for police and fire would force cuts in other public services.
“We don’t have the money to do it all,” Kennedy said. “This would put the burden of future cuts on other departments.”
But several speakers praised the cooperative nature of the negotiations that helped forge the contracts.
While union officials admitted that the contract package was a “tough sell” to their members, Firefighter Jeff DelBono assured the council that “we don’t want to bankrupt our employers.”
In voting against the contract, deHaan said his opposition was nothing personal but he was concerned that future city revenues may not be adequate to meet the costs incurred by the settlement. But a council majority, including Mayor Marie Gilmore, supported the plan.
“It’s not good to declare war on your employees,” she said.