Poulsbo police, city in arbitration

Brynn Grimley writes:

Today marked the first of what will likely be three days of arbitration hearings between city of Poulsbo officials and the Poulsbo Police Association — the union representing Poulsbo police officers.

I’m still waiting to hear from a representative from the Poulsbo Police Association, but I had a chance to speak with Deanna Kingery, the city’s Human Resources director, to get background on the negotiations.

The city’s contract with the police expired Dec. 31, 2009. Talks to update the contract began around July 2009, Kingery said, but negotiations did not result in a new contract.

By the end of 2009 the two parties could not reach an agreement and in January 2010 they went into mediation. By spring it was clear neither side was going to budge, so the parties declared an impasse in communication. The next step was an arbitration hearing.

While representatives from both parties continued to meet to find middle ground, numerous other factors resulted in the arbitration being pushed out until the start of 2011. The contract under discussion is the one for the period from 2010 to 2012. Typically contracts are for three years.

It sounds like the main issue issue is compensation — police would like to see more compensation in their salaries and health reimbursements. I have not heard from a police representative, so I don’t know what they’re asking for or if the city’s offer was below compensation levels in the current contract.

Remember the city offered voluntary separation to employees last summer to eliminate the need for involuntary lay-offs. A total of nine people took the city up on its offer, saving $752,000.

The hearing between the city and police is scheduled to run today, Wednesday and Thursday. It will likely be a few months before the arbitrator comes back with a written finding. In the interim the police will continue to be governed by their contract that expired at the start of 2010.

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