City council to vote Oct. 16
By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH - A majority of union police officers voted to approve the third version of a contract between the city and the union.
The three-year contract preserves the ranks and salaries of all the officers, instead of reducing ranks as had been originally proposed.
The contract was ratified on Oct. 5 with a vote of 30-10. Forty-two officers qualified to vote, but not all of them were available to vote, said Pamela Stern, chief negotiator for the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association.
The next step is to present the contract to the Vero Beach City Council for a final approval vote on Oct. 16, said Jim O'Connor, Vero Beach city manager.
"It was very tough negotiations on both sides and we think in this economic climate we've reached a fair agreement," Mr. O'Connor said.
Ms. Stern said overall the bargaining unit is disappointed in how the contract came about.
In time they may be able to appreciate more the stability having a contract will give them, but right now happy isn't the best word to describe their feeling, she said.
If the contract had not been approved, the officers or the city would have likely declared an impasse and brought their case before the city council for judgment, Ms. Stern said.
This was not something the officers wanted because it has seemed at times that the city was hostile to the police department, and could potentially move to adopt the rank reductions, which would have affected a total of nine officers, she said.
The rank reductions would include salary decreases.
In the ratified contract, the police officers will receive nine holidays, a reduction from 11. Officers that work the holiday will be the only ones that receive holiday pay.
The contract includes a change to the officer's pension contribution. Current officers will increase their contribution to the pension fund from 3 percent of their salary to 5.5 percent. Officers hired to the department after Oct. 1 would automatically have their contribution at 8 percent.
Salaries were not increased in the contract, but there is a clause in the contract that permits both sides to revisit the issue in the second year of the contract, Mr. O'Connor said.
Also in the contract, police officers would have to use their vacation and sick time in the year that it was earned, as nonunion employees do. The change will take effect in October 2014, he said.