Salary and benefits negotiations between USF and the Police Benevolent Association have ended, and it’s unclear when they will start again, according to a Dec. 20 press release.
University spokesman Ken Gullette said the University’s decision to declare impasse – the formal term for stalled negotiations that must be decided by a third party – was prompted by the cancellation of a Dec.14 negotiation session by the PBA, which did not express an intent to reschedule.
“We felt that, frankly, that we were going nowhere and that it was time to bring in a third party,” he said.
Gullette called the timing of the impasse unfortunate, as it was declared at the beginning of winter vacation.
“We did not want to go into the new year with this thing dragging out,” he said.
Until now, USF had the distinction of being one of few universities never to have gone to impasse, said Gullette.
The contract in question was to have taken effect July 1, 2007, but has been held up because the University and PBA cannot agree on the amount of money officers in the Association should make and the length of the contract.
The PBA wants to raise the starting salary to $38,500, plus a $2,500 cash bonus, up from $35,041 – the current starting salary – and does not want raises to be tied to discipline.
The PBA advocates a two-year contract term, whereas the University wants three-year contracts for University Police officers in the PBA.
Both the PBA and USF want to resolve the issue quickly.
“At this point, enough haggling,” said Gullette. The last meeting between the PBA and USF on Nov. 5 ended with UP agreeing to take USF’s best and final offer back to its members for a straw poll, which would determine whether they accepted it.
Officers unanimously rejected the offer, PBA representative Stephanie Crookston wrote in an e-mail.
The University maintains, however, that its final offer is a good combination of “base salary adjustments and cash bonuses in an effort to increase our competitiveness and enhance our ability to recruit and retain talented officers at USF,” according to the release.
Despite disagreement over the attractiveness of the offer, Crookston said the impasse was a complete surprise to its members, as it planned on attending the meeting upon receiving public records it requested from the University.
“We had a negotiation meeting scheduled for Dec. 14. However, we had also put in a public records request for the consultant’s report and the Allied Barton’s security contract,” said Crookston. “We advised USF that until we have the public records request we are not prepared to present anything at the December meeting. We cancelled the meeting pending our records request. I found out that we were at impasse due to media inquiries.”
The next step for both sides is to agree on a special magistrate who will serve as the third party arbitrator. The Public Employee Relations Committee (PERC) will give a list of potential special magistrates to both sides and they will either agree on a person from that list or someone else.
Next, the magistrate will hear both sides and issue recommendations. The magistrate’s recommendations do not have to be accepted by either side.
“Hopefully, they will be agreed upon by both sides,” Gullette said.
If the PBA and the University do not agree on the magistrate’s decision, Gullette said the Board of Trustees will definitively decide the contract. Gullette expressed that it is in both parties’ best interest to reach an agreement with the magistrate, despite momentary snags in the process.
“Negotiations are contentious for both sides,” he said. “At hardly any time will both parties get everything that they want.”