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Brawley police, council still at odds over pay hikes

impasse possible

February 08, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — While the Brawley City Council has settled three-year contract deals with all other employee groups, talks with Brawley police officers have yet to produce an agreement and one officer said an impasse could be looming.

On Tuesday the council adopted contracts with firefighters, Police Department sergeants and management, those city employees represented by the Teamsters and unrepresented employees.

While the contracts vary, all employees will receive a 5 percent pay increase retroactive to July 1.

For the police sergeants and management, 3.5 percent increases will come in 2001 and 2002.

For the other groups, 2001 will bring a 3.5 percent increase, 2002 a 2 percent hike and a 2 percent hike in the first month of 2003.

Contract negotiations would start again in 2003.

Mayor Wayne Johnson said he is pleased the council reached three-year agreements.

"I was really pushing for a three-year contract so in April or May we don't have to revisit this issue again," he said.

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The council is still involved with talks with the Brawley Public Safety Employees Association, which represents the police officers, and there has been little movement toward a settlement.

Brawley police Detective James Brownyard said this morning he is angered that the council made concessions to other employee groups but has made few concessions to police officers.

Brownyard said police officers are seeking a 5 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2000, a 3.5 percent hike on July 1, 2001, a 5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2002, 3.5 percent on July 1, 2002, and 5 percent on Jan. 1, 2003.

Brownyard said the city has not offered police officers any new proposals in months.

"As far as I'm concerned the movement from the city has been insignificant," he said.

Brownyard added the sergeants' group has been given an additional pay scale step. He said the police officers' group has not been offered any such step increase.

Johnson said he thinks the council has taken actions aimed at reaching an agreement.

He said one sticking point the council did agree to is an increase in retirement pay for police personnel.

Brownyard said the retirement pay plan will force police officers to provide money toward the increase. He said that means money coming out of officers' pockets.

Johnson said police would only pay toward the retirement plan should the city's premium costs rise as a result of the higher retirement pay. He said that could happen but police would only be asked to pay up to 9 percent of the higher premium.

Johnson said of the officers, "Really, they have to adjust their sights a little bit."

Johnson added he is hopeful the city and police officers can reach an agreement.

Brownyard said he too is hopeful a deal can be reached. However, he said impasse is a possibility.

If impasse were declared, a mediator could be brought in to determine what salary increase is fair based on information provided by the police and the city as part of a new state binding arbitration law.

The strained relations with the police officers led police to file a lawsuit against the city.

That lawsuit stemmed from the council adopting a budget for this fiscal year that included a 3 percent raise for all employee groups.

A Superior Court judge ruled the council had failed to negotiate in good faith and ordered the city to repeal that portion of the budget relating to police services. The judge ordered the city to negotiate in good faith with the officers.

Brownyard said he does not think the city has done so. He said he hopes the next month will bring a change or officers will consider other steps, such as declaring impasse.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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