USF still at odds with UP over pay

The University’s police force rejected USF’s proposal to bump up the salaries of its lowest paid officers during a bargaining session Thursday, because the offer raised concerns over increasing the pay of newly hired officers.

The administration’s offer, a three-year deal, would have raised the base salary for current officers to $38,500 – a $500 increase over University Police’s request of $38,000 – and increased the salaries of more experienced officers to $39,000. The proposal also provided a $2,500 for all officers now employed.

At first, the offer was a pleasant surprise, said Corporal Stephanie Crookston, chief negotiator for UP. It seemed better than what Crookston asked for in the last negotiation meeting on Aug. 23,she said.

“Initially I was encouraged, until we asked for clarification,” said Crookston, who represents UP along with Police Benevolence Association attorney Robert McCabe. “Then I realized this contract might keep the new officers another year, but otherwise would not help with recruitment at all.”

UP’s last proposal to USF was to bring the starting salary up to a minimum of $38,000 for all officers and bump the salaries of officers with two to five years of service to $38,500, Crookston said. Additionally, it included a bonus for only those officers with longevity on the force.

But UP also wanted the salary bumps to apply to officers hired in the future, not just the 39 now working, said Crookston. They also wanted the contract to last for just one year, so they could renegotiate for better pay next fall, she said.

Without pay increases for new hires, UP had little hope of recruiting officers pursued by competing city and county law enforcement agencies who offer better salaries and more perks, Crookston said.

“The starting salary has not increased more than $2,000 in five years and simply cannot compete with local agencies,” she said.

The proposal would cost the University $223,419.73, according to Sandy Lovins, USF’s chief negotiator and associate vice president of Human Resources.

During negotiations, Lovins said USF Human Resources is actively involved in an “aggressive recruitment campaign,” involving the creation of a recruitment video and attendance at two job fairs.

Crookston was skeptical about the effectiveness of the strategy.

“These videos and job fairs that she talks about … no one’s going to want to come work for an agency that starts at $35,000,” Crookston said.

After the meeting, Lovins declined to comment about open negotiations.

“I want to negotiate this at the bargaining table, not in the media,” she said.