Police Department gets concessions from one union, prepares for arbitration with another

The Metropolitan Police Department secured several million dollars in contract concessions from one of its employee unions Monday, the same day it began preparations for possible contract arbitration with another.

At its monthly meeting, the agency's Fiscal Affairs Committee approved $3.54 million in pay and benefits concessions from the Las Vegas Police Protective Association Civilian Employees, which represents about 1,400 dispatchers, clerks and other non-police workers.

The committee then hired a law firm to handle legal issues stemming from the stalled negotiations with the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which represents about 2,800 rank-and-file officers.

The Police Department declared an impasse with the police union earlier this month. Once the union makes the expected move and agrees, the two sides will head to arbitration.

"We just didn't think there would be consensus from both sides," Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.

The sheriff said he wasn't surprised at the stalled talks given the cuts the union gave the past two years while other government employee unions didn't.

"They're preparing for arbitration, and so are we," PPA Executive Director Chris Collins said. "We'd like to avoid it, but I don't think we'll be able to."

With pay and benefits concessions the past two years, Collins said, Las Vegas police officers are paid less than Henderson and North Las Vegas officers. His union offered another $8 million in concessions this year, but the Police Department wants $20 million, he said.

"We simply want to be able to keep what we have because we've given up more than anyone else has," he said.

The two sides can continue negotiating during the arbitration process, which can take several months .

"I'm not giving up," Gillespie said. "I'll keep working with the association to find some common ground."

The PPA and Police Department last reached an impasse in 2005 during a contentious negotiation that led to a split between Las Vegas and Clark County, which together fund about 70 percent of the agency's budget.

The two sides reached a contract agreement for a 25.6 percent raise in salaries and benefits over the four-year contract.

The city's two members of the Fiscal Affairs Committee supported the contract, as did one of the county's two members, giving the union the three votes needed to approve the contract. But a week before the vote, the County Commission replaced contract supporter Tom Collins with Rory Reid, who voted down the contract.

The case went to an arbitrator who ruled in favor of management's proposal of 21.85 percent.

The Police Department's civilian union had given concessions the past two years.

"For the most part our folks are extremely intelligent," said Terri Yada, president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association Civilian Employees. "They get it. They see what's going on around us."

The union, which approved the contract by a 294-to-40 vote, gave up merit raises and longevity pay for a year and absorbed a 15 percent rise in medical costs that the Police Department had been set to cover. In all, the 1,400-member union gave up $3.54 million in concessions.

The civilian union also agreed to give up longevity pay for all new employees hired after July 1. However, any financial gain from that concession won't be felt for a decade because employees aren't eligible for longevity pay until they've worked for 10 years.

Members of the committee and Gillespie commended the union for agreeing to concessions for both now and the future.

"This bargaining unit, each and every time, has come to the table with an open mind," Gillespie said at the meeting.

It was the third year of concessions for the union, but Yada said the goal was to avoid layoffs, something other government agencies have resorted to as Southern Nevada's economy has languished.

"I'm hoping we're done bouncing on the bottom," Yada said.

The Las Vegas Police Managers and Supervisors Association, which represents about 450 sergeants, lieutenants and captains, remains in contract negotiations.

"We're hoping to get it resolved," said Lt. John Faulis, the union chairman.

The Police Department and the union have more meetings scheduled in the coming week.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.