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Union concessions help save jobs of North Las Vegas police officers

The city of North Las Vegas and its police union have reached a tentative agreement on contract concessions to save the jobs of 11 police officers.

The agreement, reached Thursday, still must be approved by the City Council and by a vote of the union’s membership. It includes the suspension of cost-of-living raises for fiscal year 2011-12. The 4.25 percent raise will not be deferred or made up in future years.

The value of the concessions over the next 18 months is about $3.65 million, said Mike Yarter, president of the Police Officers Association.

"It’s reasonable and fair, and I think both sides benefit from it," Yarter said. "It brings some relief to the younger guys — the 11 who are directly impacted."

Those officers could have been laid off as soon as January, he said.

The agreement means "these 11 families don’t have to worry at Christmas," Mayor Shari Buck said.

"It would have been devastating both for them and the city" otherwise, she said.

Buck has voted against budget cuts that would include the loss of public safety jobs.

The union represents 360 police officers, corrections officers and marshals. It is the second of the city’s unions to come to an agreement in the latest round of concessions aimed at saving money and avoiding more layoffs as the city continues to struggle with the effects of the economic slump. The City Council in November approved contract concessions with the city’s largest union, Teamsters Local 14, that saved 144 jobs.

The North Las Vegas firefighters union is still in concession talks with the city, and a union official said those talks are going well. If an agreement is not reached, 33 firefighters could lose their jobs next year.

The police union’s agreement with the city also includes lowering the starting salary for new hires by 10 percent and freezing holiday and sick leave sell-back next year, Yarter said.

In exchange, the city agrees to not to lay off police union members for the next 18 months. If more concessions are needed during that time, the union agrees to come back for more talks.

The city also agrees not to privatize the city’s detention center through June 30, 2014. Union members also will receive 40 hours of additional leave time in fiscal year 2011.

Councilman Richard Cherchio, who has sometimes butted heads with police and firefighters union leaders during contentious contract concession talks, said he was happy the city and union were able to come to an agreement that would both save jobs and help balance the budget.

"Nobody has a desire to lay anybody off," he said.

The union will vote on the agreement over the next several days, and, if ratified, it should go before the City Council in January, Yarter said.

North Las Vegas police officers average $156,000 a year in salaries and benefits, according to a committee formed this year to study the city’s budget.

The city, which is dealing with a $35 million shortfall through fiscal year 2011, laid off 188 workers in June. Another 44 — all North Las Vegas Detention Center workers — were let go in October after the detention center lost about a third of its inmates to a facility for federal inmates in Pahrump.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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