The Big Bend Chapter of the Florida PBA and the City of Tallahassee recently declared an impasse over contract negotiations. If an agreement is not reached, the two parties will go in front of arbitrator in the near future.
In attempt to understand the stalemate, TR researched the negotiating process and sought answers to three questions from a representative of the PBA.
The PBA negotiates labor contracts with the City of Tallahassee. The actual negotiations take place between Tallahassee city staff and PBA representatives. TR has confirmed that the point person with the City of Tallahassee is Assistant City Manager Raul Lavin, who reports to City Manager Reese Goad.
Tallahassee City Commissioners, while not involved with specific negotiations, are briefed on the process and will have to vote to support any agreement that is reached between city staff and the PBA.
Also, it is important to note that there are two bargaining groups represented by the PBA within the Tallahassee Police Department. The bargaining unit representing TPD supervisors have previously voted to accept an agreement with the City of Tallahassee. The bargain unit that represents the rank and file recently voted against the City of Tallahassee’s last proposal and now are at the impasse stage.
Richard Murphy, the President of the Big Bend Chapter of the Florida PBA, submitted answers to the three questions below.
What’s keeping both sides from reaching a deal?
Richard Murphy: For months, we negotiated in good faith with the City Manager, Reese Goad, offering reasonable proposals that reflected the needs of our police officers, who are still working under an expired contract. Despite our good faith efforts, each of our proposals was rejected with a disingenuous counter offer that was inconsistent with the pay and benefits afforded to other municipal employees in Florida. The City Manager’s intransigence over proposed pension and health insurance contributions continues to be a major factor for this impasse.
As it stands now, we pay almost three times the amount than the average municipal employee in Florida for a family health insurance plan and we pay upwards of 13% into our pensions, which is also about double what most municipal employees in Florida pay.
Why should the citizens of Tallahassee be concerned?
Richard Murphy: The public should care about the City of Tallahassee’s commitment to fairly compensating its police force because maintaining and recruiting highly qualified men and women to serve on the front lines of public safety will have a significant impact on the city’s ability to fight crime and keep our communities safe, particularly when violent crimes are on the rise.
As of last night, we’ve had five homicides this year compared to only one last year during the same period of time. Staffing cuts are also a factor. One of our Violent Crime Response Teams, as well as one of our Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Squads, have been disbanded in order to staff patrol squads.
If the city fails to invest in its police force, public safety will be compromised, parents won’t want to send their kids to college here, and local businesses will go out of business.
How can this impasse be resolved?
Richard Murphy: City Manager Goad should come back to the table and recommit to negotiating a fair and equitable contract that reflects the needs of our current force, while building a strong career path for the future of our police force. City Manager Goad’s failure to invest responsibly in our city’s police force will have lasting negative consequences for our city for many years to come.
Tallahassee Reports will continue to follow developments related to this process.