Police union: no negotiations with Chandler - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Police union: no negotiations with Chandler

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Posted: Saturday, August 8, 2009 7:35 pm | Updated: 2:30 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Keith Benjamin, president of a Chandler police union that is at odds with city management over a proposed wage freeze, said his upcoming meeting with City Manager Mark Pentz does not mean the union's position could change.

Keith Benjamin, president of a Chandler police union that is at odds with city management over a proposed wage freeze, said Friday that his upcoming meeting with City Manager Mark Pentz does not mean the union's position could change.

"It's not negotiations. Our contract is closed," said Benjamin, Chandler Lieutenants and Sergeants Association president. The two parties are expected to meet in the next couple of weeks.

CLASA's labor contract with Chandler is only a year old and doesn't expire until July 2011. Even so, city management has proposed eliminating the 48-member union's total of about $46,000 in annual merit pay - which gets added to base pay each year to move officers through their pay range - and replacing it with an equal one-time payment this year that would not be added to base pay.

City officials have cited the necessity of reducing personnel costs to help balance the budget in a time of plunging revenues because of the economic downturn. Replacing merit pay with a one-time payment to CLASA would help the city slow down the annual escalation of salaries, officials have said.

City management has indicated its willingness to let CLASA propose alternative cuts in lieu of its merit pay proposal, as it did recently with three other city unions whose contracts had been set to expire.

The union's lawyer, Martin Bihn, has said that CLASA has an approved contract with the city and that Pentz doesn't have the authority to suspend merit pay. In a July letter to council members, Bihn implied that the union could sue the city over the issue.

Jane Poston, city spokeswoman, said talks between the two sides had been slated for last week but were pushed off for about two weeks because of scheduling conflicts.

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