Negotiation Frustrations at USF

Frustration over the latest round of bargaining between University Police and administrators will likely draw a third party into the protracted contract negotiations, according to members of UP’s bargaining team.

The meeting ended with UP agreeing to take the administration’s final offer back to its membership for a straw poll – an unofficial vote aimed at gauging the proposal’s reception among officers.

If bargaining does reach an impasse, Police Benevolent Association attorney Bob McCabe and his team said they have plans to show media coverage of the negotiations to the third party arbitrator.

“We’ve saved all the articles, and we have no problem presenting them if we go to impasse. From our perspective, (USF is) ignoring their critics in the media,” McCabe said.

UP and administrators can’t agree on the duration of the collective bargaining agreement and USF’s proposal to dock officers’ salaries for reprimands.

The administration is proposing that UP officers who have been disciplined with a certain number of written reprimands should have their pay docked as a penalty.

The agency refused, saying the penalty, which is not used by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office or Tampa Police Department, could put substantial dents in officer pay and ultimately weaken theirperformance.

In addition, UP’s bargaining team has argued to renegotiate the contract every two years instead of three, giving UP more influence over the pay structure.

UP’s proposal to eliminate the disciplinary salary adjustments and shorten the period between renegotiations was met with the administration’s resistance. After lengthy private deliberation, Sandy Lovins, chief negotiator for the administration, rejected UP’s proposal, holding steady to a previous offer addressing compression of salaries.

At the meeting last week, Lovins and her team offered a pay increase to UP officers starting in 2009 on a graded scale based on experience. Officers with less than two years experience would receive a 1.5 percent increase for the next two years. Those working with the force for more than two years would get a 2 percent raise, those with five to 10 years 2.5 percent, and those with more than 10 years 3 percent.

Lovins said they were disappointed with the way things are going.

“I think we’ve taken some substantial steps backwards,” she said during the meeting.

She would not speak to reporters outside of negotiations because it is against the University’s policy to comment during ongoing negotiations.

After a brief caucus, McCabe said he would ask UP for a tentative agreement if USF would drop the disciplinary penalty and change to a two-year negotiation structure. Lovins responded to McCabe’s offer by saying the University is not willing to do a two-year deal.

“We don’t see that as a good option,” she said.

Sgt. Michael Klingebiel responded by packing up his belongings to leave the meeting, which was set to officially end minutes later.

“If the University wants this to go to impasse over duration and discipline, then I don’t know what to say,” McCabe said.