Key Biscayne police union members voted down a tentative labor agreement with Village bargainers, telling managers Tuesday that the rank-and-file were unhappy with provisions that would change promotion procedures, holiday pay, and eliminate extra pay for dozens of officers with rifle training.
The Village reached tentative agreements with firefighters and civilian workers that call for a 5.5% wage increase in the first year and cost-of-living increases matching inflation for years two and three, capped at 4%.
But the bargaining unit covering officers and sergeants – about 35 employees – overwhelmingly rejected terms hammered out earlier this month.
“We want to get a deal done,” said union chief bargainer Richard Weiner at the bargaining session. But he said the officer’s rejection – especially of the rifle pay – was “vociferous.”
“We are a bit disappointed,” said Village Manager Steve Williamson, who said from the outset of talks this year that he wanted swift agreements with municipal unions.
“We have to go back to Council,” which he said had given him “marching orders” with the package union leadership signed off on.
“I’m surprised with the leadership and the members,” Williamson said.
After a caucus, the Village’s chief negotiator, Caroline Saiz, told the police union that “there may not be retro the longer this proceeds,” a threat that the Village might not implement the 5.5% wage increase retroactive to October if the union and the Village can’t reach a deal. Up until now, the parties have been proceeding with the assumption that any wage increase would be retroactive to Oct. 1, the start date of a new contract.
Williamson said with holidays and January meetings focused on the island’s “Big Dig,” projects, another labor session might not happen for a month.
Except for school resource officers, police are not required to carry rifles. But most Village officers get the extra pay – 4% of salary – for agreeing to carry the weapon and have the response training, officials said.
The union said it would agree to freeze the benefit so that newly-hired officers would not receive the extra rifle payment.
Village firefighters had also been pressing for a better economic offer, but leaders reached a tentative deal last month. Union President Eddie Blanco said members will meet Dec. 6 to discuss a ratification but was unsure if a vote would take place on that date.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.