- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The first contract negotiations ever between the city of Springfield and a union representing its police force continue to founder, prompting some police officers to picket outside a city council meeting.

Protests such as the one held Monday night by about 25 people will continue at every city council meeting and lunch until a contract agreement is reached, said Mike Evans, president of the Springfield Police Officers Association, which represents officers lower in rank than lieutenant.

The city and police association have not been able to reach a contract agreement since negotiations began after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that public bodies must bargain with their employee groups.

Earlier this month, the sides reached an impasse and decided to go to arbitration, The Springfield News-Leader reported (https://sgfnow.co/ZbT5rP ).

The two sides have reached tentative agreements on everything except wages and police are currently working under an interim agreement that gave them a 1 percent pay raise plus merit raises this fiscal year. Union members also have expressed concern about staffing.

“We need to bring up pay; we need more manpower,” Officer Mark Priebe said. “We’re just trying to get support and let our citizens know what we’re having to deal with.”

Police Chief Paul Williams declined to comment on contract negotiations.

Evans said the city wants to tie the raises to the rate of inflation for at least the next two years. He said it takes about 2.6 percent of the police payroll, or $700,000 to fund the merit raises. If the raises are tied to the CPI, they would be cut 1.5 percent in 2013, he said.

He also said the force’s low staffing levels - about 307 of the authorized 331 officers - means that officers work mandatory overtime and requests for some vacations are being considered on a weekly basis. Pay for Springfield police officers in the union begins at $16.43 an hour, or about $34,174 a year, and progresses to $26.44 an hour, or about $55,000 a year.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com


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