The Columbia Police Officers’ Association will focus on getting more of the city’s police to the median pay level in the next budget year.
CPOA Director Dale Roberts said officer pay will play a priority in this year’s collective bargaining with the City of Columbia. Negotiations are set to start later this month, ahead of public budget meetings in the early fall.
The city tries to get its employees to the median salary for their job in comparable cities by their fifth year, Roberts said. The policy was central to justifying a raise for City manager Mike Matthes in December, when the city council voted to bring his salary from $157,000 to $165,000.
City data on police pay given to Roberts shows 66 police officers represented by CPOA make less than the median salary of around $24 an hour, and have worked for five years or more. Sixteen of those 66 have worked for 15 years or more. Roberts said he wants the fiscal year 2017 budget to move those officers to the median, or above the median, supporting the decision to city council made for Matthes.
“We’re in favor of employees being at the median, but we do ask that they provide the same treatment to the police officers as they gave the city manager,” Roberts told ABC 17 News, “which is, look at all of our officers over five years and not at the median, and move them to the median.”
The median pay for a police sergeant calculates to around $32 an hour. Roberts said raising more tenured employees to the median would help improve department morale, reported low by CPD in early January.
Roberts also said he wanted a signed contract with the city this year, something the government has never before provided. A priority for CPOA last year, Roberts said the city told him in negotiations that it was not something the city usually practiced with city labor unions.
“It’s sort of a sign of trust and respect that we will do what we have said we would do,” Roberts said of the importance of a written contract.
Representatives from LiUNA Local 773, who represent the city’s laborers, also wanted a written contract in FY2017. Roberts said with three spots on the city council up for election in April, including mayor, a contract helps guarantee the terms reached in collective bargaining.
“Given the extreme example, there could be three new people on the city council in the spring,” Roberts said. “That’s not enough to swing the council, but three people could have a big impact. New people could come in and say, ‘We want to do something completely different.”
While ABC 17 News did not hear back from the city’s human resource department on why it did not sign contracts with labor unions as of Tuesday night, city spokesman Steve Sapp said via email he would have an answer by Wednesday.