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Police: City won’t budge

Manteca says it can’t as there’s no money

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POSTED October 13, 2009 3:31 a.m.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton is being blamed by the Manteca Police Officers Association’s leadership for forcing the layoffs of 12 officers.

“They dug in and refused to negotiate,” MPOA president Ken Wells said of the city management.  

The current staffing is now near the lowest in the state at 0.8 officers per 1,000 residents, Wells added.  

“We are a recognized union and they declined any talks other than what was originally submitted by our city manager five weeks ago,” Wells noted.

“It wasn’t our lack of trying that this occurred,” he said of the layoffs.  The MPOA offered to extend the current contract for two years, and to put off any raises for those two years.   At that time they would revisit the pay scale with an agreed figure on the tax revenues – whether it was up or down, Wells said.

“We offered to up our furlough, and to extend that for a couple of years, but they refused,” he explained.  

The MPOA president said there are no scheduled negotiations or talks at this time.

The city made the same demands of the MPOA that they did of the other municipal unions – forgoing negotiated pay raises of 4 percent in 2010 and 2011, giving up uniform allowances if applicable for the next two years, and make contributions toward retirement out of their existing paychecks. The other bargaining units accepted the terms to avoid layoffs within their groups.

What irks the police is the city’s “one-size-fits-all” approach. The MPOA has indicated they were offering another way to get to the same savings but the city refused to listen.

Manteca at the start of negotiations still had $2.5 million of an original deficit of $14 million to bridge. The employee concessions and police layoffs now in place will reduce the remaining deficit to $700,000. Additional one-time savings are expected to plug the remaining gap.

The city insisted everyone be treated the same. The end result, though, would have gotten the city out of negotiated pay raises. The MPOA’s argument is they’d hold them in abeyance and revisit them when the city’s revenue outlook improved.

The city has said the layoffs would be reversed if the concession were agreed to by the MPOA.

Wells said he made three contacts with Pinkerton face-to-face – one meeting with the POA attorney – but he got nothing but an all or nothing ultimatum refusing to negotiate.  “They want to renege on their agreement with us with no further talks.”

It was “all or nothing”  either to accept his proposal to pay more into retirement, wave off the two scheduled raises and drop the uniform allowance, he said.

“The only reason only 12 left is that four were hired back on a stimulus grant.”

He added that most officers on the bottom of the 25 with low seniority are seriously concerned for their jobs and considering employment elsewhere.  

“A number of the guys who were laid off are now in background application checks with other agencies,” he said.

He said it appears the city is trying to break their contract with the police officers – a five year contract that was penned at the city’s request.

“So far we have given up a 3.8 percent pay on furlough that started in January.  We also had a side letter agreement that the city would endeavor not to have any layoffs,” Wells said.

The furlough is structured much like the state CHP and the California Department of Corrections where the raises are put into the pay, but the money is not paid out – a tool used to help governments with cash flow, he said.

Wells explained that while 12 officers were laid off the department was already six below authorized staffing levels.

 “We’ve got four to six officers getting ready to retire now with Saturday night being a good example of being short handed,” Wells said.

Detectives replaced
officers who called
in sick Saturday

Most of the detective division replaced officers who called in sick.  Wells alone worked 19 hours of overtime on a double shift on swing shift as well as on graveyard.  Three other officers had to be called in from home for middle of the night coverage.

“We lost some good officers.  A couple of years ago we were recruiting really hard – one of the reasons for our contract, the way it was structured – was to recruit mostly lateral officer so we could get more experience on the street,” Wells noted.

Several of the officers who were laid off had been in the top step – with the most experience – in their departments in cities like Merced and Livingston.  They came here and then they lost their jobs, Wells explained.

“We do need to recruit in the future – good luck – no one is going to trust us after this,” he opined.    

As for next year’s budget that will be presented in June 2010, the MPOA president said he couldn’t envision the city laying off any more officers, adding the city is at “bare bones” as it is.  There is just no place else in the department to cut, he added.

Wells said the morale in the department is extremely low at this time.  

“Even though these guys were extremely young, we were friends and we all worked together,” he said.

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