City, cops agree on contract

The contract eliminates all raises for the next two years.

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WALLA WALLA - City Council approved a two-year contract with the Walla Walla Police Guild, which eliminates all raises for 2011 and 2012, including cost-of-living, and no matching deferred compensation for the roughly 40 guild members.

But the city's single largest group of union employees - members of Local 1191-W, which represents non-police and non-fire city employees - won't be making the same concessions.

"It was obvious there were problems with the city's finances, and the city was asking for concessions," said guild President Marlon Calton, who is also a detective with the department.

Calton said the guild hired an accountant to review the city's books, and in the process it became apparent the city could not afford raises or deferred compensation.

"We went and looked at the city books and we found that the city was in worse shape than what the city had presented themselves to be ... we know what the city is going through, we understand," he added.

The union contract approved by City Council on Wednesday mirrored the firefighters' two-year contract approved in December.

Members of Local 404 International Association of Fire Fighters, which has about 40 members, will also forgo raises, cost of living increases and matching deferred compensation for 2011 and 2012.

The vacation buy-back program was also eliminated for both unions, but the vacation cap was extended from 240 to 280 hours to accommodate the loss of the program.

Both police and fire departments also saw a reduction in staff.

Walla Walla Fire Department Lt. Javin Berg, who helped negotiate the contract, noted it lost one captain position and one training position, but was able to keep the prevention specialist position. The prevention specialist's duties include teaching fire safety in local schools and other public outreach.

"The training position, we are hoping that can come back down the road. But the deputy chief position, it is not likely that it will come back," Berg said.

As for the city's third and largest union, members of Local 1191-W are currently in the middle of a four-year contract, so negotiating raises or deferred compensation was not an option, explained Human Resources Manager Jennifer Seekamp.

Prior to this year's staff reductions, Local 1191-W had 119 members.

Under the current contract, members will receive yearly cost-of-living salary increases of up to 4.5 percent and a 100 percent match on deferred compensation up to three percent of regular salary.

In recent years, Police Guild members received salary increases of 7.1 percent 2009, and in 2010 all members received a 4 percent salary increase, with sergeants receiving an additional 2.5 percent that year.

In 2009 firefighters received a 5 percent increase and in 2010 another 2 percent.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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