The Seattle police officers’ union has reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with the city, the union head announced this afternoon.
Sgt. Rich O’Neill, 54, who has been president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) since 2006, made the announcement during an invitation-only news conference at union headquarters. The guild represents about 1,250 members, including officers and sergeants.
The agreement is still subject to a vote by SPOG members and City Council ratification. The tentative contract covers the period from 2011 through 2014.
The agreement provides for a cost-of-living increase, which O’Neill declined to disclose until he meets with SPOG members. However, O’Neill did say the increase will maintain Seattle officers’ position as the top-paid cops in the state.
The agreement also includes a provision to “reopen” the contract so the city and guild can negotiate changes in officers’ working conditions — specifically changes in regards to discipline — that arise as reforms to the police department move forward, O’Neill said.
SPOG has been working without a contract since the previous one expired in 2010.
In a statement on the tentative agreement, Mayor Mike McGinn said,“We have reached an important milestone in our work to form a new contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild. My priorities during this work were to ensure that a new contract would support public safety in Seattle, recognize city budget realities and support our work to fully implement the reforms enshrined in our settlement agreement with the Department of Justice. I am pleased that our tentative agreement has achieved all three of these basic priorities.”
The question of who pays the guild president’s salary is also a topic that can be reopened at a later date, O’Neill said. Contract negotiations between the city and SPOG had reportedly splintered over a proposal that the city no longer pay the salary and benefits of the O’Neill. Currently, the city pays O’Neill $125,000 in salary and benefits under the terms of a 2008 contract while he serves full time as the union’s leader. Under previous contracts, the union paid the president’s salary, according to O’Neill.
No other union head representing city employees receives a full-time city salary.
“While the agreement does not immediately resolve the President’s salary issue, it provides a clear path to settle this issue in the near term while preserving the value of reaching closure on the overall contract,” said Aaron Pickus, McGinn’s spokesman.
SPOG members will be voting on the contract over the next two weeks and the ballots will be counted on May 22.
Under the agreement, O’Neill said SPOG agrees to drop a lawsuit, filed along with the Seattle Police Management Association in March, seeking protection of their collective bargaining rights in response to police reforms mandated by a court-imposed agreement with the Department of Justice.
The agreement lays out specific steps to address excessive use of force, biased policing and other practices in the police department.
O’Neill and Lt. Eric Sano, president of the management association, said the court action sought to clarify the bargaining rights of the two labor groups. Sano said today his union will also drop its suit.