Negotiators for three Salt Lake City employees unions were nearing contract agreements with the city Wednesday afternoon, but they weren't to include pay raises police officers demanded with picket signs and an epidemic of "blue flu."
City negotiators and police union representatives were meeting Wednesday at press time to iron out differences in contract language. One other city employee union was expected to reach an agreement Wednesday, officials said.And city officials are optimistic that an agreement can be reached with firefighters within a week, although the firefighter's union chief is less hopeful.
"It's all coming back in line," said the city's chief negotiator, Bob Adams, who has been negotiating with the city's police, fire and clerical and labor unions.
Police officers staged a sickout Friday but dutifully returned to work Tuesday, most with doctors' statements excusing their illnesses. Police and firefighters have been working without a contract since July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. Laborers and clerks tentatively agreed Thursday to abide by last year's contract until a new one was reached likely Wednesday after-noon.
All three unions have been negotiating for pay increases, which Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis has refused to provide, citing budget constraints.
However, the unions have reluctantly agreed to an offer by DePaulis to "reopen" the budget in the future if surplus revenue appears.
"That's really a concession for us. It means we open up our books, and that's a major concession for us," DePaulis said.
A joint committee of union representatives and city officials will review city coffers in March 1989 to determine if any surplus revenues will materialize, Adams said.
"Then, all surplus funds will be looked on as a salary increase for all the unions," not just the police union, Adams said.
However, there are several other priorities that would usurp use of surplus money before it would trickle down to employees.
For example, $500,000 taken from the city's capital-improvement budget in order to balance this year's budget would be replenished by surplus money before city employees would enjoy a pay raise, Adams said.
Elden Tanner, president of the Salt Lake Police Association, expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached by Wednesday afternoon. "Now the city is willing to sit down and talk with us; it's a step in the right direction," he said.
But Tanner said that police officers are still frustrated with the mayor's intransigence in ignoring ways to fund a pay raise, noting that DePaulis enjoyed a $1.7 million increase in the mayor's staff budget for fiscal 1989.
Wednesday, Tanner said he and Adams were engaged in "productive" talks focusing on the reopener clause.
The local American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees is believed close to reaching an agreement Wednesday afternoon, its union chief said, despite his bitter sentiments over how laborers, sanitation workers, clerks and other union members were treated by the mayor.
"I am not pleased with the way the mayor and the City Council have put us on their priority list," said union chief Gordon Ottley. "We're going to be coming full on next year, and they better put us high on the list or there's going to be trouble."
Ottley was scheduled to meet with DePaulis Wednesday afternoon.
Although Adams predicted an agreement with the local International Association of Firefighters this week, chief negotiator Charlie Quick would only say that an agreement must be reached by the third week this month.
"I am optimistic that there is enough flexibility that we could come to an agreement," he said.
All contract agreements must meet the approval of union members and the City Council.