LOCAL L.A. Now

Los Angeles police officers vote to reject proposed contract extension

The proposal gave officer more pay for overtime, but few raises
City and union must decide now whether to return to negotiating table

Signaling frustration over issues surrounding pay and discipline, Los Angeles police officers rejected a proposed one-year contract extension reached with Mayor Eric Garcetti and city negotiators.

Officials with the Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file cops, said Saturday that 5,823 members had voted against the contract over the last four days. The union has roughly 9,900 members.

“There is a deep-seated frustration and anger among the officers caused by their low pay, working conditions, a disciplinary system that is viewed as biased and unfair, and their perception that management is unreceptive to their problems,” said union President Tyler Izen.

Union officials spent the past week trying to sell the contract to police officers in a series of closed-door meetings. But it was a tough sell.

The one-year agreement offered a substantial increase in the amount of cash available to pay officers for overtime, but gave no raises to most officers.

Now, city and union officials must decide whether to return to the negotiating table.

If the two sides cannot reach a new agreement, outside mediators may be called in to try to broker one. Barring that, the City Council could ultimately seek to impose a one-year contract on the officers.

Budget officials have been pushing for the city’s elected officials to hold off on raises for city employees, part of a larger strategy for eliminating a structural deficit by 2018. By avoiding raises, officials also hope to limit the growth of their public safety retirement costs.

The city’s payout for police and fire retirement benefits has more than tripled since 2005, growing from $175 million to $626 million. That figure is expected to reach $710 million in two years, according to a presentation given to the City Council in April.

“For every dollar we pay in salary, we have to find 50 cents more for retirement costs” for police officers and firefighters, said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official at City Hall.

Garcetti said in a statement that he is committed to continue working with the union to reach "a fair and fiscally responsible agreement."

"I appreciate the sacrifice of our police officers in recent years to help our city weather the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," he said. "This sacrifice was always intended to be temporary, and that's why the proposed contract restored cash overtime, ended forced time off and addressed the compensation disparity for our newest officers."

The proposed contract would have increased the pay of nearly 1,000 officers who had joined the force at a starting salary 20% lower than their colleagues. That measure was aimed in part at helping the LAPD improve recruitment.

Those lower-paid officers, hired since 2009, would see a boost while starting salaries would rise 15% starting January.

"I'm disappointed that this vote results in nearly 1,000 of our newest police officers being left behind," Garcetti said.

The negotiations with the police union come as the city is trying to reach agreements with other employee organizations, including the firefighters and the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents non-public safety employees. Contracts with all of the unions expired on June 30.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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