City’s talks with union sputter as firefighters balk at pay freeze

With labor negotiations already stalled between the city and its Police Department, contract talks with firefighters may not be faring much better.

Redwood City has asked both unions’ rank-and-file employees to forego raises for one year, an offer its Police Officers Association has refused. Firefighters delivered their “last, best and final” offer to the city in late June, but might be willing to consider a salary freeze if it’s part of a “package deal” with other benefit increases, according to union leader Adrian Anderson.

The POA, representing 75 officers, rejected the pay freeze and has taken to running ads in local newspapers after its negotiations and mediation sessions with the city failed, according to Ray Fowler, spokesman for the police union.

“We have heard nothing from the city, but we’re continuing our efforts to make ourselves available,” Fowler said.

Unlike the firefighters, the police union does not have binding arbitration. Police also aren’t allowed to strike.

“They don’t think they are paid well enough, but we think they are the highest-paid police in the county,” City Manager Ed Everett said.

Police officers currently make between $6,147 and $7,472 per month, according to human resources director Bob Bell. That pay is above other police departments in San Mateo County, but not the highest in the Bay Area, Bell said.

Everett said it would be fair for the officers to take a pay freeze, considering that other city unions went without raises for two years. But those freezes came with bumps in other benefits, according to Fowler.

Although previous labor negotiations between the city and its police have been tense, officers have come away with raises — 6.5 percent in 2002, 5.5 percent in 2003 and 3.6 in 2004, according to Patrick Alvarez in the city’s HR department.

Meanwhile, if the city does not respond to the firefighters’ offer — or counters with an unacceptable offer, those negotiations may be headed to arbitration soon, Anderson said.

Firefighters’ salaries range from $5,689 to $6,916 per month.

The City Council will meet in closed session July 10 to discuss its negotiations with the POA.

The POA has been operating without a contract since Sept. 1, 2005, while the firefighters union has been without a contract since Jan. 1, 2006.

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