Union head on police contract OK’d by city council: “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.”

Bloomington police officers now have a contract with the city for the next three years, through the end of 2020. The four-year deal, approved by the city council on Wednesday night, stretches back to the beginning of 2019, when the current contract expired.

Officers have been working this year under an “evergreen” clause of the old contract.

The 2-percent raise for this year was not applied retroactively, though it feeds into the schedule of raises each year for the next three years, which range from 2.65 to 2.9 percent.

Instead of applying the raise retroactively, which according to city staff would have been administratively too complex, officers received a $1,000 bonus. The bonus is about $60 less than 2 percent of the base salary for an officer, which was $52,916 in 2018.

Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88, told the city council that the main point of contention—about which the union members were not happy—was a move away from seniority as the sole factor in determining shift assignments.

The council approved the contract and the salary ordinance as separate items. The votes were unanimous.

Technically, the salary ordinance was taken up after it had been previously tabled, then amended by substitution with the new numbers reflected in the police contract. The council treated it as a new ordinance to be approved the same night it was introduced, subjecting it the the requirement that it have unanimous support from those present and a two-thirds majority of the nine councilmembers.

City attorney Mike Rouker, who was part of the city’s negotiating team, presented the contract changes to the city council. He said he was “very excited” to be a the end of the process, which had been long—it started in mid-2018. Rouker said he believed that both sides bargained in good faith.

Post told The Beacon just after the union ratified the contract in mid-November that the compensation in the new contract still leaves the department uncompetitive with other peer departments across the state, and does not address challenges the department has with retention.

On Wednesday, Post told the council he agreed with Rouker—the union was happy the process was over. Post added, “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.” They had agreed with terms of the contract as a “self-preservation” vote, Post said, because they did not want to risk starting the next year without any of the protections of a contract.

Router led off with the total estimated price tag of the contract changes: $1,456,000. Most of that cost, Rouker said, was due to the percentage increases in base pay:

YEAR PCT increase from previous year Salary
2018 $52,916
2019 0.02 $53,974
2020 0.0265 $55,405
2021 0.028 $56,956
2022 0.029 $58,608

Router also highlighted a change to the shift differential pay, which is designed to incentivize officers to prefer the afternoon (second) shift. The incentive for afternoon (second) shift was increased from $16 to $50 a week.

Related to shift differential pay is the topic of shift assignment. Shift assignment was the main area of contention in the contract negotiations, Post said in his remarks. The change to the way that officers are assigned to shifts was also acknowledged on the city’s side as significant. Bloomington’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, it in her memo to the city council as “the most complicated and perhaps most significant change to the contract.”

The department operates on three shifts that overlap by half an hour: morning (first) shift from 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; afternoon (second) shift from 1:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and night (third) shift from 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Rouker said at Wednesday’s council meeting that the system resulted in the least experienced officers working the afternoon (second) shift, which is the busiest shift, measured in number of calls.

In the new contract, the shift assignment system will no longer rely on a pure seniority system of bids. Just 75 percent of the slots on a shift will be assigned based on seniority. The remaining 25 percent will be assigned by police department administration. In one example from the new contract, for a shift of 20 officers, five would be assigned by administration, not based on seniority. The administration is still supposed to take into consideration the preferences of officers as expressed in their bids.

The contract also starts the process of phasing out the bidding process based on seniority. For officers hired after Jan. 1, 2020, the new contract eliminates formal “bidding” in favor of “preferences.”

Rouker called the new contract’s approach to shift coverage “creative.”

Post told the council that he did not think the issue of the balance of experience on the shifts was as significant an issue as the administration thinks it is. Post said police work is by its nature shift work. And assignment to shifts is done all over the country by seniority. “We’re going to see what happens over the next three years, the rest of the contract, to see how that works out.” Post said the union had some concerns about whether it will actually help the issue on the second shift.

Here’s a breakdown of calls in 10-minute increments through the day plotted against the shifts, based on data available on through the city’s data portal:

FINAL R-OUT-POLICE-CALLS

One thought on “Union head on police contract OK’d by city council: “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.”

  1. The answer to the question “will assigning 25% of the slots per shift by administration rather than by seniority make a difference” will indeed be interesting to see. As reported the theory is: Having a greater number of more experienced officers on the 2nd shift than the 100%-assignment-by-seniority system allows will “make a difference”. This sounds plausible, possibly…but *what* is the difference? Did the administration cite specific variables they hope to impact with this change? One thing I’ve observed about this administration, and I admit this is very broad, yet it seems true to me, is they have a preference for advocating plausible sounding theories in a non-specific way such that they *may* be totally blowing smoke (which always raises the question: if they are blowing smoke *why do they truly want this thing so much*), or they may actually honestly believe in the theory and they simply aren’t very specific in their thinking. It’s inherently unsatisfying.

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