University Police contract talks take step forward

University Police seemed optimistic about their contract negotiations with University administrators for the first time in weeks after another round of collective bargaining talks Monday.

Police officers and administrators, who met for nearly three hours, gave the first indications of forward movement in a trenchant negotiation process that has dragged on since February.

“I think we’re talking about issues that are important to both sides now,” said Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, who represented the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) at the meeting. “This is the longest session that we’ve had.”

UP had their most heated negotiation with the administrative bargaining team to date last week as two officers left the meeting in frustration.

But some of the bad blood seemed to settle after UP officers heard Monday’s proposal from Sandy Lovins, who is leading negotiations for the administration.

The proposal laid out by administrators would bump up the salaries of officers beginning in 2009, staggering the pay increases based on the number of years officers have served.

Officers with less than two years’ experience would get an annual raise of 1.5 percent of their current salary, those more than 2 years’ experience would get 2 percent more, those with 5-10 years on the force would get an extra 2.5 percent and those with more than 10 years experience would get an additional 3 percent salary raise.

Lovins said the deal would cost USF just shy of half a million dollars.

“I think this is a solid proposal,” Lovins said. “I hope that you’ll give it some serious consideration.”

UP is funded for 49 positions, with a grant from Hillsborough County that offers four more to bring the total to 53.

But only 41 of those positions are staffed, thanks to what Chief Thomas Longo has called a “revolving door” of officers caused by UP’s inability to recruit new officers and retain existing ones, who have left for better-paying positions with competing local law enforcement agencies.

The ratio of officers to students at USF is lower than any other major state university, at about 940 students per officer.

Lovins said Monday’s proposal would address some of the problems with a “compression and retention pay adjustment.”

“It seems to me that we’ve got just a couple of issues that I hope that we can work through,” Lovins said to open the meeting. “The sooner we can work through them … the sooner we can move to ratification and get the money to the officers.”

Bob McCabe, an attorney for the PBA, said the administration was likely looking to get a new contract in place before a Nov. 6 meeting of the Board of Trustees, adding that administrators would like to give the board members good news.

UP officers said they had some reservations about the proposal’s tie of wage increases to disciplinary actions as well as the schedule for the wage increases, which would not take effect until 2009, and the length of the contract, which would lock officers in at the proposed pay rates for the next three years.

Klingebiel said he planned to crunch some numbers to get a better sense of how the wage increases would shake out among the force before the next round of negotiations, scheduled for Monday.

“Let’s give them some credit, this is something to think about,” Klingebiel said during one the UP officers several caucuses during the negotiations.

Christine Gibson can be reached (813) 974-6299 or