Lakewood, police guild seal deal on labor contract

Staff writerAugust 14, 2013 

Lakewood police officers will no longer be working without a labor contract now that the City Council and the Lakewood Police Independent Guild have ratified a three-year collective bargaining agreement.

However, new contracts for nearly 150 other Lakewood employees still are tied up in negotiations, more than seven months after the old contracts lapsed.

The City Council ratified the agreement in a 5-0 vote Monday night, retroactive to the start of this year.

About 90 commissioned police officers, including detectives and sergeants, will receive consecutive 3-percent pay increases in 2013, 2014 and 2015. They had received no cost-of-living raise in 2010 and just 1.75-percent raises in 2011 and 2012.

Officer Charles Porche, the guild’s president, said members were happy to see their health care costs held in check as well as a significant pay raise for the first time in years. He said the guild’s ratification vote was “very favorable” — more than 90 percent of those casting ballots.

Interim City Manager Heidi Ann Wachter said she was proud of both city staff and the guild for finding common ground.

“It’s a tough economic environment to work under,” Wachter said. “The fact that we gave the 3-percent pay increases, that’s always tough in this environment.”

Cost to the city will be an additional $216,000 in 2013, $222,000 in 2014 and $229,000 in 2015, according to city projections.

Lakewood is without a finance director, and new City Manager John Caulfield doesn’t start work until September, so it’s unclear how this will affect the overall budget.

“Obviously we’ll have to absorb it one way or another,” Wachter said.

Employee medical insurance became a sticking point in negotiations last year after the City Council directed staff to reduce health care costs as a tradeoff to keep from having to raise utility taxes on residents.

In the end, the police guild and the city agreed to a break-even plan that pays more for employees (100 percent of premiums instead of 90 percent) but less for dependents (86 percent instead of 90 percent). It also directs most new guild members into a high-deductible insurance plan.

“Although it doesn’t save the city any more right now, it sets us in the right direction,” said Debra Young, the city’s human resources director.

Meanwhile, nearly 150 Lakewood employees represented by three other unions continue to work without contracts. No ratification votes are scheduled for the largest group of 130 or so rank-and-file city government employees, nor for about six community service officers.

Wachter said the city hopes to reach a deal with the smallest union, which represents five police lieutenants, by the end of August.

“We believe we are close,” but not close enough to put anything on the calendar, Wachter said.

Matt Misterek: 253-597-8472

matt.misterek@thenewstribune.com

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