Although all three Salt Lake employee unions have left the collective-bargaining table as of Monday, an entrenched Mayor Palmer DePaulis said a tight city budget won't permit him to budge from current salary offers.
"I'm somewhat hamstrung," DePaulis said Tuesday, "I only have a certain amount of dollars."However, "it's always a possibility" that the City Council could make budget cuts and convert funds into more employee raises, DePaulis said. DePaulis vetoed the council's budget last year when it took such action.
Council Chairman W. M. "Willie" Stoler, said bigger salary packages "would be high on the priority list" if budget cuts produced revenue this year.
The International Firefighters Local 1645 broke off talks Monday, joining the Salt Lake Police Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which last week walked from salary negotiations.
The three unions rejected the mayor's offer of a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment and a 2 to 2.75 percent merit raise, contending the salary increases won't account for a lack of pay raises since 1986.
Fire union chief Charlie Quick could not be reached for comment Tuesday but city negotiator John Gisler said Quick left the table saying the city's offer is not enough.
The police union wants a 4 to 6 percent merit increase. AFSCME complained merit increases won't help many union members because they have "topped out" on the city's salary scale and won't receive any merit increases.
DePaulis said he was "frustrated" by the unions not bargaining two months before contracts are signed. "I believe in the collective-bargaining process and to me collective bargaining means sitting at the table."
The unions are being "schizophrenic," DePaulis said, explaining that last year unions criticized the mayor for not providing enough economic development to cushion city coffers with increased tax revenue.
"And yet this year, they're saying we're going to boycott the Olympics, we're going to tell people not to shop downtown. You tell me how that's going to build up any tax base and contribute to the general fund," he said.
Unions have criticized DePaulis for not having city priorities right, a charge the mayor denied, calling his priorities "well established" and saying the salary package offered is the best fiscally possible.