The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA), the union that represents most St. Louis police employees, has filed an “emergency grievance” accusing city leaders of bad faith bargaining and abandoning negotiations over wages.
The police union also made the alarming claim in the grievance that the city is diverting about $2 million in Prop P revenue from police salaries, despite the voters will that the money be used to fund competitive police wages.
The union argued that Prop P funds are desperately needed to address the police staffing crisis saying that (the city) walking away from the bargaining table demonstrated, “The city is simply indifferent to the notion of combating police attrition and the resulting violent crime epidemic.”
The union claims that members of the Board of Aldermen and the Aldermanic Ways & Means Committee attempted to fund a temporary one-year increase for police in the budget for the coming fiscal year. However, according to the grievance, “the Mayor’s Office frustrated those efforts in order to insure that police officers were deprived of their rightful compensation and their requisite share of Prop P revenue.”
The SLPOA took the rare step of classifying the violation of the union contract as an “emergency grievance” because the budget is so close to being adopted. They asked for a federal mediator to step-in to address the crisis saying that, “the parties should return to the table forthwith and remain at the table until terms can be agreed to…”
Police officers in Missouri are prohibited from striking so if the city refuses to join the union in mediation, the Union’s only recourse would be to demand binding arbitration on the dispute. Unfortunately, an arbitrator doesn’t have the authority under the union contract to order the needed wage increase or to compel the city to stop diverting Prop P funds. An arbitrator could only order the city to meet its contractual obligations to return to the table and bargain in good faith.
FATE OF CITY, POLICE HANGS IN BALANCE
The union said that the fate of the City of St. Louis and its police department hang in the balance. Because of uncompetitive wages, the police department had 143 unfilled commissioned vacancies as of (last week) and has about another 100 officers unavailable for patrol duties due to illness and other reasons. The union said the resulting manpower crisis makes it impossible to properly police the most violent city in America, which only contributes to the city’s murder and crime epidemic.
The city has a budget of over $1 billion. Overall revenue for the city is expected to increase by about $30 million for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 and Prop P revenue is anticipated to increase by $1.9 million.