Retired Judge John A. Flaherty denied pay increases for police officers in his arbitration ruling between the city of San Jose and the Police Officers Association, refusing to restore wages that were cut by 10 percent in 2011.
This arbitration ruling is the first conducted under the city charter as amended by 2010’s voter-approved Measure V, which established that if two sides of a bargaining dispute cannot reach an agreement, a retired superior court judge would be appointed to decide the case.
The POA gave media interviews at its headquarters Thursday, and union president Jim Unland argued that the city is well on its way to financial recovery and has $92 million in general fund reserves.
“It has nothing to do with not being able to pay (salaries),” Unland told San Jose Inside. “It’s a philosophy that everyone took a 10-percent cut, so everyone gets a 2 percent raise.
“(City Manager Debra Figone) used the word ‘equity.’”
Flaherty was selected to chair the board based on mutual agreement from the city and the POA. Unland and Deputy City Manager Alex Gurza also sat on the board. Flaherty, with Gurza concurring and Unland dissenting, adopted the city’s proposal for each of the eight issues addressed in the arbitration process.
With regard to wages, the most significant of the eight issues, Flaherty acknowledged “there is a compelling need to increase wages within a reasonable time period.” He added that the two sides would have to reach an agreement outside of arbitration.
“While there is undoubtedly a number that will begin to restore wages to their prior level and allow the City to do so in a fiscally responsible manner, the parties have not been able to agree on that number.”
The arbitration decision was reached July 1, yet was kept confidential for 10 days to allow continued negotiations between the city and the POA. However, the POA apparently ignored the city’s requests to participate in negotiations, according to a July 11 letter signed by Jennifer Schembri, the city’s deputy director of employee relations.
“We all agree that we need to start to increase pay for our police officers,” Figone said in a statement Thursday. “Our challenge is to find a solution that is sustainable for the long term and does not impair other vital city services.”
The recent arbitration decision is the latest in a series of conflicts between the city and the POA. Pension negotiations between the city and the police union in April almost went to arbitration, before a last minute deal reduced police officers’ pensions. Yet the legal fight over pension reform through Measure B remains ongoing. Unland said parties are expected back in court July 22.
Such conflicts over pay increases and pension plans have led to an exodus of police officers. As a result, Unland has been the target of criticism for what some in and around City Hall have seen as encouraging that exodus—a notion the POA president disputes.
“I don’t know if encouragement is the right word,” Unland said. “I put the facts out. If anyone thinks grown adults—cops—are making life decisions because Jim Unland told them so, that ain’t the case.
“These new guys in the academy, absolutely they understand what tier-two pension means. That’s my job to make sure they understand this stuff. Absolutely they’re going to look elsewhere; they’d be foolish not to.
“My responsibility, in my mind, in the way I run [the POA], is for the individuals, not the association.”
Unland says that the department is losing roughly 100 officers a year, and gaining only about 80 new recruits. (See a list below this article for numbers tracking department staffing.) If the trend continues, he said, the department will not survive.
“There’s a real possibility that there is no SJPD in five years, and there’s no POA in five years,” Unland said. “Businesses fail all the time.”
While not offering a full restoration of wages cut in recent years, city officials have said they are committed to continuing negotiations. Unland argues that the 9-percent offer recently presented by the city is more like a 2-percent bump.
“The charter clearly encourages public safety contracts to be settled through negotiations, rather than by arbitration, and that continues to be our goal,” Gurza said. “To this end, we continue to offer pay increases and hope we can reach a settlement with the POA soon.”
San Jose Police Department staffing (Provided by the Police Officers Association)
Authorized — 1109
Actual — 1063
Sworn-Solo — 975
FTO — 43
Academy — 45
Disabilities/Family Leave — 45
Modified — 29
Military/Other — 14
Health Sworn-Solo — 887
Working Patrol — Approx. 392
Historically Patrol — Approx. 600
Weekly O.T. Cars — 32
Past 2 Years — 70 Resignations Per Year
Historically — 4 Resignations Per Year
Resignations — 70
Resignations — 70
Retirement — 34
Resignations — 35 + 3 Pending
Retirement — 19 + 10 Pending
2013 — 30
2014 — 27
2015 — 65
2016 — 37
2017 — 50
Since 1998 the total has always been in the 20’s with the exception of 2007 (33) and 2008 (31).
2010 — 20
2011 — 40
2012 — 46
2013 YTD — 26
Josh Koehn contributed to this report.