Chandler firefighters get merit raises, but police don't - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Chandler firefighters get merit raises, but police don't

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Posted: Monday, June 14, 2010 4:33 pm

During a time when budgets are slashed, wages are frozen and the cost of benefits go up, at least those eligible in one department for the city of Chandler will keep merit raises while another department will have to negotiate for theirs.

Members of the Chandler chapter of the United Phoenix Firefighters will receive 5-percent merit raises for the 2010-11 fiscal year (July 1-June 30) Whether members of the Chandler Law Enforcement Association, will get one remains to be seen.

The CLEA represents about 260 police officers.

In October, when the deadline to re-open the final year of a three-year contract was reached, the Chandler chapter of the United Phoenix Firefighters chose not to re-open the contract for negotiations, so members who are not topped out in pay can receive a 5 percent merit raise. However, merit raises for police officers were not guaranteed in the contract like they were for firefighters, according to Shawn Hancock, president of the Chandler Law Enforcement Association.

So, when the police contract was re-opened in the fall, it made the provision of keeping the 5-percent merit raises subject to negotiation, according to Mark Pentz, Chandler city manager, and Debbie Stapleton, city human resources director.

Contract negotiations between the Chandler Law Enforcement Association and the city now are at an impasse, but likely will resume on June 24.

The Chandler Law Enforcement Association chose to re-open its contract last fall seeking an upgrade in pay in benefits that amounted to near 9-percent increase, according to Pentz.

“The CLEA chose to pursue benefit and pay increases,” Pentz said. “If they would have not re-opened the contract, they would have received 5-percent merit raises. There was no oversight on the part of the city allowing the fire department to receive merit raises. It was a provision in their contract, and when they chose not to re-open the contract, the provision of merit raises continued. When the CLEA opted to pursue an increase in benefits and pay, it had to be on the provision that it would be revenue-neutral, meaning that something had to be cut somewhere so the raises would not have been at a cost to the city.”

But Hancock said that the city wanted to suspend merit raises, and police didn’t want to face any more pay cuts during a time when the cost of health insurance is increasing.

“We’re not seeking a raise,” Hancock said. “We’re just wanting to get the 5-percent merit raises for the guys who are eligible. Last year, we agreed to take a .85 percent pay cut, but this year, we’re paying 10 percent more for our health-insurance premiums, and that’s a pretty big hit for someone with not very much time in the department. Our argument is that you can’t treat employees differently, and we’re seeking ‘internal equity,’ which is seldom adhered to.”

The contract would have expired in June, and if it was not re-opened, it would have been extended for another year, according to Stapleton.

“It certainly is our goal to get the matter resolved as soon as possible,” Stapleton said.

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