Many Salt Lake police officers were coming down with "coughs" Friday and planning to call in sick.
They're coughing at Mayor Palmer DePaulis' failure to find funds for increased salaries and manpower by Friday - the beginning of the new fiscal year - leaving police and firefighters to work without a contract.Meanwhile, one city employees union, The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1004 reached a tentative settlement with the city Thursday, a union leader said.
Unions have been negotiating for new contracts, which expired at the end of the fiscal year. Pay scales now fall under compensation ordinance guidelines passed by the city council in lieu of contracts for the two unions without an agreement.
Starting about 2:30 p.m. Friday, officers will begin calling in sick, a strike tactic known as the "blue flu," according to several sources. They say up to 90 percent of the patrol force will be suffering from the flu, which is of the 24-hour variety.
Nearly all the striking officers belong to the Salt Lake Police Association, but that union's officials deny they are behind the blue flu.
Officers planning to strike said they are doing so to send a strong statement to the mayor's office.
That had Acting Police Chief Ed Johnson forgetting Thursday that he was an applicant for police chief. "I've been more concerned lately with planning for (the blue flu)," he said.
Johnson said he will likely require each officer to bring a note from his doctor to verify that he is sick. "We will do what's required. We will demand sick slips."
DePaulis won't look favorably on the sick-out but, like Johnson, said contingency plans to police the city's streets are available, said Mike Zuhl, the mayor's chief of staff.
"The mayor's view is that he would prefer the police department to not engage in this type of tactic . . . but if it does happen, we are prepared to deal with it," Zuhl said.
Johnson said the absent officers will be replaced in the field by captains, lieutenants, sergeants and detectives.
The mayor is seeking a pay increase for police if funds can be found in the new budget, which goes into effect Friday. If more revenue is identified, the budget must be "reopened," Zuhl said. "But calling in sick is not going to produce anymore revenues for the city."
The agreement reached Thursday between the city and negotiators for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the largest city union, is not yet written in stone, said Patty Foulger, speaking for union head Gordon Ottley.