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City and police association in dispute over contract

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Following a news release from the Roswell Police Officers’ Association urging the public to hold the city of Roswell accountable for alleged collective bargaining agreement violations, city leaders say instead they have honored the conditions of the agreement.

According to the RPOA, one of the violations goes back to when RPD officers were to supposedly receive annual step increases on July 1, in accordance with the agreement.
“This did not happen,” said RPOA vice president Michael Burkowski. “This marks the third time that the city of Roswell has not provided step increases to officers. This means officers’ pay is frozen at their current grade.”
In a statement from Roswell’s city manager, Joe Neeb said the city and union reached a resolution to fund the step increases for the final portion of the 2017 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Neeb said an impasse was experienced during negotiations regarding step increases in the 2018 fiscal year, which began July 1.
The city also showed discontent toward the RPOA statement of Aug. 14, in which the RPOA said city leaders should be held accountable for “not supporting its officers.”
“We are disappointed with the RPOA’s apparent attempt to manipulate the agreement process by stating inaccurate information in a public manner,” Neeb said.
Burkowski, who disclosed the RPOA’s 2017 fiscal year settlement to multiple media outlets, responded that there was no attempt to spread misinformation.
“That settlement, and ongoing negotiations, still does not permit the city to violate the contract by not providing the 3 percent step increase already owed, and violate it again by failing to conduct the market analysis for two years in a row,” Burkowski responded.
According to Neeb, part of the 2017 contract resolution included an agreement to reopen negotiations for the 2018 fiscal year.

“Because those negotiations were ongoing and we remained without a resolution and final agreement as FY 2018 began, the city has been unable to offer the step increase for FY 2018 as negotiations continue,” Neeb said. “(The) RPOA was aware the step increase would not be available during the FY 2018 initial negotiations.”
Burkowski said the RPD still remains “very short-handed.” According to the RPOA, the Roswell Police Department has retained nine of the last 78 officers hired, and 50 percent of the department has less than five years of experience.
“(We are) 14 officers short as of this (Aug. 14) release, and others are looking to leave,” Burkowski said. “This is in no small part due to the fact that the city refuses to honor the contact that it agreed to. Thirty-six of 73 officers are affected by this violation.”
After conducting a survey, the RPOA said the top reasons why officers would leave the department included statements of officers feeling overworked, underpaid, having a low quality of life within the city, feeling lied to about the step increases and the city’s alleged contract violations.
Neeb said the parties are proceeding into the next step of negotiations — mediation.
City Attorney Aaron Holloman said the city is waiting to be contacted back from a federal mediator. Neeb said the city supports its employees, honors its responsibilities and sincerely hopes to reach a consensus.
Neeb said the city desires to keep the lines of communication open with RPOA, and to continue to try to work with the police association to reach an agreement.
Burkowski said the RPOA, too, is willing to cooperate.
“The RPOA is willing to continue working with the city, provided they honor agreements they’ve made and are willing to bring forth a reasonable offer to negotiations,” Burkowski said. “We can’t strike. I mean, we can’t do much about it.
“We’re considering all legal options at this point, but we don’t want to come to that. That’s not what we want to do.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.