Turlock Police Association Doesn’t Settle for Council Labor Agreement

Tuesday’s City Council meeting was overflowing with officers and city employees waiting to see if the Council would implement the labor agreement terms of the last, best, and final offer to Police association members.

 
After a passionate debate by members of Turlock Associated Police Officers (TAPO), the Council unanimously decided to postpone implementation of the issue to the next City Council meeting.
 
TAPO’s postponement subsequently postponed five other labor groups that were expecting to have their agreements approved on Tuesday. These groups include: Turlock Management Association Public Safety, Turlock City Employees Association, Turlock Firefighters, Confidential Employees of the City, and Management Employees of the City.
 
The offer would be in effective for one fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.
 
Terms of TAPO’s offer include: Employees to pay 9% PERS contribution. Employees cannot cash out or sell back vacation time, sick time, holiday in lieu time, and management leave. Employees will receive 56 hours of in lieu time off; the days and hours are specifically divided into a seven day period. The terms also include a modification of the health care plan.
 
City and TAPO representatives have had various meet and confer sessions regarding this issue. At the conclusion of meetings, representatives from both parties agreed that they were at impasse.
 
The decision for TAPO’s agreement did not go down without a fight, as members of TAPO spoke passionately about ramifications if the offer was passed as presented.
 
Brandon Bertram, TAPO’s President, and Dave Garcia, TAPO’s legal counsel, both stated that the cash out of time was a major issue in that Garcia felt the mandatory take it or leave it time would be an illegal take because of how Bertram stated that about 256 hours of time off for each patrol officer would be a scheduling issue, almost making it impossible to take the time off.
 
TAPO members were not happy with the changes or salary presented in the offer.
 
Turlock Police Detective Jason Tosta did not feel this matter was handled by a meet and confer, and felt that some issues were not explained thoroughly. Tosta also was frustrated that he, as a police officer, is underpaid compared to other police officers in the area while the City’s top administrators are being overpaid.
 
 “I can’t state enough that I am appalled by the way we are treated in negotiations by two people sitting at your table,” Detective Tosta said regarding City Manager Roy Wasden and City Attorney Phaedra Norton. “It’s even more difficult knowing that some of our top city administrators are making enormous amounts of money well beyond what they should.”
 
Vice President of TAPO, Russell Holeman, did not feel that holiday cash outs were equitable for each of the six groups. He questioned Attorney Norton’s observation that no labor groups will be able to cash out their holidays.
 
VP Holeman also voiced his concern that if the offer is passed, he would not be able to send one of his children to Sacred Heart School or his other child to an all-day preschool.
 
Showing a picture of his three children, Holeman said to Council, “When we run into you in town, I want you to explain to them why they can no longer go to their schools.”
 
Mayor John Lazar was offended by some comments made by a couple of speakers against City Manager Roy Wasden and City Attorney Phaedra Norton.
 
“I’m very disheartened when this becomes personal for the City Attorney and myself,” said Manager Wasden.  “I’m sorry that some of them find personal offense at the efforts we’ve made in following the Council direction of this effort.”
 
“They don’t need to hear disparaging comments accusing them of certain activity, it’s very inappropriate,” said Mayor Lazar.
 
Despite the attacks, Manager Wasden and Attorney Norton along with the Council discussed the best way to iron out the disagreement regarding the offer.
 
 “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t come to an agreement,” said City Manager Roy Wasden.
 
These concessions are not a new problem to TAPO, and they have taken various hits in the past three years.  “I’m hoping that this is truly the last year,” said Council woman Mary Jackson.
 
This year, the City was able to use over $2 million of the reserve to balance the budget.
 
In these times, we are a very lucky city to have $2 million to put in the pot,” said Council member Forrest White.  “If we didn’t have the reserve, this would be a much uglier situation,” he said.
 
Council member Bill DeHart is determined to preserve jobs and have the least impact possible. He was frustrated that there is not a representative in Sacramento that is trying to help situations such as these.
 
“Every last one of you people sitting in this room that is an employee of this city is special,” he said.  “We have got to be as consistent and as fair as we can possibly get. Do we like it? Absolutely not. In reality we have to get from where we are to where we need to go.”
 
Vice Mayor Amy Bublak was on both sides of the coin, as she is also an officer with the Modesto Police Department. She recognized the current impasse, and suggested to wait two weeks on the issue.
 
The City Council took a break lasting about 45 minutes so the City Attorney and TAPO’s legal counsel could discuss what may be possibly illegal or not, regarding the mandatory time off, and how they may be able to move forward.
 
That meeting caused the City Council to hold a special closed session meeting. It was reported that no action was taken in the meeting.
 
The City Council decided that the issue will be revisited at the next City Council meeting, to be held on Tuesday June 26 at 7:00pm. Failure to come to an agreement would lead to imposing the offer as presented at Tuesday’s meeting.
 
“I want you to know that you (all City employees) are appreciated and I am sorry we are at this point,” said Council woman Jackson.

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