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New CLASA contract links supervisor pay with other cities in Maricopa County

New CLASA contract links supervisor pay with other cities in Maricopa County

(Posted: Oct. 6, 2008)

Chandler police supervisors received a 4.33 percent pay increase in September and could see another bump in pay after the first of the year thaks to a new meet and confer contract that links their pay to supervisors in eight cities.

For the next three years, Chandler supervisors will rank No. 4 in pay among eight cities in Maricopa County. As other cities raise salaries, the City of Candler will do the same to keep supervisor pay in fourth place.

The contract was negotiated this summer for the Chandler Lieutenants and Sergeants Association by John Burpo of the National Coalition of Public Safety Officers (NCPSO). The contract is unique in that it locks in the pay standard agreed to by the Association and the City. While it’s common to talk about pay comparisons during the negotiating process, rarely are both sides willing to take a risk and include a preferred pay ranking in a contract.

“We don’t know of any other agency that has an agreement like this,” said CLASA President Keith Benjamin. “In other places, they just say they’re going to do it — we have it in writing. “In the past, the City would give us a raise on July 1st that put us in third or fourth place,” Sgt. Benjamin said. “But, days later, we would fall back to last place as other cities adopted their pay raises. We didn’t think that was fair. We wanted to be in fourth place all year long.”

Benjamin said the union suggested a mid-range ranking because during these tough economic times, demanding top pay wasn’t feasible.

“We realized that linking our pay with other departments was risky. The City offered us a choice — a 2.5 percent raise in July that we would have to live

with all year, or we could accept the pay determined by what other agencies did,” he said.

“We took the gamble, and now we’re getting a 4.3 percent raise this month — retro to July — and we should get another bump in January,” he said.

Next year, however, things could change. If the economy declines further and cities in Maricopa County don’t approve pay raises for police supervisors, Chandler pay will remain stagnant. Sgt. Benjamin said that was a risk CLASA was willing to take.

“The truth is that this is an equal gamble on both sides,” he said. “But, we know where we are going to be for the next three years, and it saved us from arguing back and forth about our pay every time another city started paying more.”

He said the idea was brought to the negotiating table by Burpo as a way to attract and keep experienced supervisors in Chandler PD. In recent years, fewer applicants were willing to test for Chandler positions because they could make more money elsewhere.

The contract also includes a benefit that allows supervisors to buy back accumulated unused vacation and sick time at year 17. Sgt. Benjamin said the provision allows employees to retire at a higher income.

“Essentially, some supervisors could see a $10,000-$15,000 raise three years before they retire,” he said.

“This benefit is significant in that it will allow those who have given so much to this City to enjoy retirement in a more comfortable lifestyle,” said Sgt. Benjamin. “For those of us who have spent our entire careers in this community, this really is a big boost for morale.

“For younger officers, it’s a great incentive to promote and stay in Chandler,” he added.

Meet and confer is a fairly new negotiating tool in Chandler. This summer’s contract was the second for police supervisors.

Only sergeants and lieutenants are eligible to join CLASA. Lieutenants are exempt employees and are not included in the meet and confer agreement. However, they receive a proportional pay increase when sergeants do. As a result of the new contract, morale within the Chandler Police Department is at an all-time high, Sgt. Benjamin said.

“Despite the uncertainties of a changing economy, city leaders sent a message with this contract that public safety comes first in Chandler, and CLASA appreciates their commitment,” he said. “Citizens benefit when the City and its public safety officers have a good working relationship.”

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