Union concessions may avoid marshals layoffs

Las Vegas officials are scheduled next week to consider concessions by the city marshals' union that could prevent layoffs from their ranks -- provided that a concession agreement is ready by Wednesday.

"We are working on an agreement," said Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. "As of right this minute, we don't have an agreement. We are much closer than where we were even yesterday. I believe we'll have a tentative agreement."

A vote on an agreement is on Wednesday's City Council agenda. The marshals represented by the Police Protective Association also would have to ratify it before it could go into effect. The earliest that could happen is Tuesday, Collins said.

The City Council agenda says the agreement would save $909,000. That number hasn't been set in stone, Collins said, but the two sides are trying to reach a figure of around $1 million.

Restructuring step raises, salary reductions and freezes of scheduled future increases are all being discussed, he said.

A figure of $1.1 million represents the 8 percent cut that the city has been seeking from the marshals. It is seeking similar concessions from its other unions.

The ongoing recession has hit public revenues hard. Las Vegas addressed a projected $80 million shortfall for the coming budget year, and expects another shortfall in 2012.

City management and Mayor Oscar Goodman called for all employees to accept an 8 percent pay cut in each of the next two budget years. They said that would at least reduce the number of layoffs necessary, if not eliminate them.

Earlier this month, the City Council approved a 2011 budget that included more than 200 layoffs of city employees, including the elimination of about 20 marshals, or nearly a third of the force.

Marshals patrol city property such as parks, investigate crime and provide security at Municipal Court.

As many as eight of those positions are expected to be restored by a new marshals unit that serves pending warrants, generating revenue.

If the marshals and the city can agree on changes to the labor contract, and if the savings are applied to preserving marshal jobs, most if not all of the layoffs could be avoided.

The 2011 fiscal year starts July 1. The first round of layoffs is set for June 12, and both sides feel pressure to beat the clock.

"This is the first true negotiation, where each side is willing to bend a little," Collins said. "At least we're now having a dialogue."

The Las Vegas City Employees Association and the firefighters union have put cost-cutting proposals forward, but officials said they didn't go far enough.

Union leaders were worried that money saved from concessions they provide would be used to save other people's jobs.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.