By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The Denver police union has reached a tentative agreement with the city that would save the jobs of 91 officers.
Reaching the agreement late Monday night, the Denver Police Protective Association would agree to delay receiving a 4.5 percent salary increase in 2010 and a 3 percent increase in 2011. Agreeing to defer the pay raise would save the city about $10 million over two years, said union President Lt. Vince Gavito.
The 2010 raise would begin on Dec. 19, 2010; the 2011 raise would begin on Sept. 18, 2011.
Union membership will begin voting on the agreement on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. But Gavito is hopeful that his membership will accept the offer, which he calls the only possibility.
“It’s hard to predict. But I believe that with the conversations I’ve had with hundreds of officers, that, yes, they will support this,” said Gavito.
The agreement comes after Denver firefighters last week agreed to forgo $7 million worth of salary and health benefits to assist the city in closing a $120 million budget shortfall.
A significant portion of Mayor John Hickenlooper’s recently announced $855.6 million budget — about $12 million — is dependent on negotiations with police, fire and sheriff’s unions. Calling the negotiations “black and white,” officials say the public safety employees will need to either accept significant cuts or face a reduction in force.
If the unions reject their respective contract proposals, the budget would call for the layoffs of 91 police officers and 45 sheriff’s deputies. By accepting the offer last week, firefighters saved 54 positions.
Hickenlooper Tuesday said the agreement would be the best deal for the city and the police union.
“Our preference has always been that police officers forgo pay raises next year so that no officers would have to be laid off,” said the mayor in a statement. “This proposal allows just that and preserves public safety.”
The contract offer also gives police officers a 3 percent pay raise for 2012, which would be on top of the deferred raises. Gavito believes the offer gives union membership the upper hand, because even if the economy continues to tank, the city would not be allowed to layoff officers if officials choose to reopen contract talks within the next three years.
“I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s the only deal,” said Gavito.
The union boss acknowledged that the city’s negotiations with the firefighters’ union last week certainly impacted the police union’s negotiations.
“The fire department accepted their offer and that kind of put us under the gun to try to come up with some kind of compromise,” he said.
Gavito does not believe that the city is only threatening to lay off 91 officers. He believes that if union membership does not accept the offer, they will be facing significant personnel cuts.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the mayor will go through with that,” said Gavito. “I don’t think that this was a bluff. If this does not pass, then I believe the mayor will lay off 91 officers, and then the department will be forced to restructure manpower to cover the call load on the street.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters