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Brawley police contract dispute over?

April 16, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The more than nine-month contract dispute between the City Council and the Brawley Public Safety Employees Association could be nearing an end.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, when it is expected to adopt a resolution approving a three-year contract with the police association. The meeting will be in the council chambers at 225 A St.

That agenda item is on the consent calendar, which means the council could take the action without public discussion.

That the item is on the consent calendar hints at the intense contract negotiations to reach a settlement.

A police association member who asked not to be identified said the association has voted to approve the contract.

The contract calls for police officers and non-sworn department members to receive a 5 percent raise retroactive to July 1 of 2000, a 3.5 percent increase in July 2001 and a 3.5 percent hike in July 2002.


In addition, there would be a 5 percent bilingual pay increase for police officers and two additional steps added to the rank of agent, which means those who reach that rank have more opportunities to have their base pay increase.

The contract also calls for a new retirement package.

Mayor Wayne Johnson said he thinks the contract is fair.

"Our intent is to hopefully retain the officers we have and attract new officers," Johnson said, adding, "It gives officers very little reason to leave us over money."

He said all along the council was ready to give raises to officers.

"We knew what we had to do," he said. "We need to bring their salaries up."

Should the police contract be approved, it would bring to an end a labor dispute that started nearly a year ago after the council adopted its budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in fewer than three months.

That budget was adopted with a 3 percent raise for all city employees.

Police officers said the council adopted the budget without negotiating contracts. They said the council had never offered a counter-proposal to a salary increase police had requested prior to the budget being adopted.

City officials contended they had to adopt a budget, adding a budget is a fluid document that can change based on contract negotiations with city employees.

The council also said it had worked hard to approve a new medical plan for officers that officers had requested to save money.

Officers then scaled back services as a move against the council. Officers said they were continuing to respond to emergency situations and that the public had nothing to fear from their job action.

However, police later decided it was best to end the job action and return to full duty.

The police union then filed a lawsuit against certain city officials, stating the city has failed to negotiate fairly.

Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly ruled the city had failed to negotiate with the police officers.

Donnelly ordered the parties back to the negotiating table and directed the city to void the portion of its budget related to police officers.

Since then the two sides have been meeting to work out a contract settlement.

Johnson, a former Brawley sergeant, said he does not think the relationship between the council and officers was ever hurt by the contract dispute.

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

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