Police guild angry over contract leak
The president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild is furious at the mayor's office for telling police commanders to disclose details of...
Seattle Times staff reporters
The president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild is furious at the mayor's office for telling police commanders to disclose details of the city's proposed contract offer to officers and sergeants as they checked in for duty Tuesday.
The guild's anger over disclosure of a salary-and-benefits package that would make the Seattle department the top paid law-enforcement agency in the region now threatens the implementation of changes to the police discipline system.
While the guild claims the city broke a confidentiality agreement, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Nickels denied that the city violated the bargaining process.
Seattle's police officers have been working under an expired contract for more than a year. Last month, in the midst of protracted contract talks, an expert panel appointed by Nickels delivered 29 recommendations for ways to improve police accountability. The guild agreed to discuss those recommendations, even though it claimed it wasn't obligated to do so until the next round of bargaining, in 2010.
Nickels' spokesman, Marty McOmber, said the compensation offer was made during discussions between the city and guild over the panel's recommendations — and were held separately from contract negotiations. Though guild president Rich O'Neill says that's true, he contends both sides agreed to keep details of those discussions confidential until a deal had been reached.
"It is well within the city's right to put out the facts about the offer that's on the table," McOmber said. "The city felt that the rank-and-file had a right to know what the compensation package [was] ... that their leadership would not accept."
But O'Neill said the timing is suspect since the two sides were "very, very close" to reaching an agreement. He said the guild plans to file an unfair-labor-practice complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Commission over the disclosure.
"We were down to horse-trading a couple of numbers back and forth just last week," O'Neill said. "Now they've thrown a bucket of cold water on the entire process and violated our trust.
"What they have done is forced us into a position where the gloves have to come off. After today, we are sure as hell done" talking about implementation of the panel's recommendations.
Though police can't strike, O'Neill said officers are moving ahead with plans to stage informational pickets around City Hall — and he has received assurances from other labor unions in the city that their members won't cross the police line.
A summary of the city's offer to guild members shows officers would receive a 23.8 percent wage increase over the four-year life of the contract. A 12-year veteran would see a boost in salary from $72,072 today to $89,250 in 2010, with an additional $6,285 in retroactive pay.
Starting salaries for entry-level officers would be increased 8 percent on top of the compounded raise for all officers, increasing entry-level wages from $47,340 today to $63,402 in 2010. Current health-care benefits would remain the same and officers would be allowed an additional 23 days off per year.
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