SAN JOSE -- San Jose's police union Thursday dismissed a revised pay offer that city officials said would raise their pay 9 percent over two years without earlier conditions the officers opposed.
San Jose Police Officers' Association President Jim Unland called it a "smoke and mirrors fuzzy math trick."
"The city is not offering a no-strings attached 9-percent raise to police officers," Unland said. "If that was the case, officers would not still be leaving the force for jurisdictions that have figured out how to retain officers and keep the public safe."
City officials said they were stunned police union leaders would continue to rebuff raises more generous than those other San Jose employees have agreed to. The City Council earlier this week approved negotiated agreements with five unions for 2-percent raises over the next year as well as a phaseout of costly retirement cash-outs of unused sick leave.
"Their motivations are a mystery to me," Mayor Chuck Reed said. "It's a straightforward offer. We hope they'll ask the officers if they want the money."
The latest back and forth over raises is part of an ongoing political war between the officers' union and City Hall. City leaders say San Jose cannot afford benefit costs that more than tripled over a decade, leading the city in recent years to slash jobs and cut all employees' pay 10 percent to limit layoffs. A pair of voter-approved city ballot measures the officers opposed reduce pension benefits for all employees and limit arbitration awards to officers and firefighters. City unions are fighting the pension measure in court, arguing it violates their benefit and bargaining rights.
Officers have been retiring and resigning from the force, leaving the Police Department short-handed as the city scrambles to recruit more cops. The officers' union blames the exodus on pay and benefit cuts they say leave San Jose uncompetitive in the job market and jeopardize public safety.
City leaders agree they need to raise police pay. But they say San Jose cannot yet afford raises the officers want with pension reform savings under legal challenge, and they accuse the union of worsening the officer shortage by rebuffing smaller raises.
The officers in their last proposal before the case went to arbitration said the city should fully restore the 10-percent pay cut by July 2014. If tax revenues fall short of projections, the cops said the city could delay the full 10-percent pay increase until January 2015. Cops say the city could tap reserves to cover the cost.
The city had offered the cops a 2.5 percent raise in each of the next two years, as well as a 4-percent "retention bonus." But the officers objected that the city had tied the second-year 2.5 percent increase to winning the pension measure case in court. Officers also opposed retention bonus conditions that it would not count toward pensions or be considered ongoing base pay. They also didn't want to reopen the contract if the city loses its pension case.
The dispute went to arbitration in May. But voter-approved limits prohibited the retired judge deciding the arbitration from granting the cops any raise at all because the city's police pension costs grew faster than revenues.
The city's latest offer no longer ties the second-year 2.5-percent raise to the pension case outcome. It also modifies language about reopening the contract after the pension case is decided, though the officers still found it objectionable. And it includes the 4-percent retention bonus. Reed said the city has money to pay a one-time 4-percent bonus but not enough revenue to make it a continuing raise.
"Hopefully things will continue to improve in the future and we can do more," Reed said. "But over the next two years, this is what we can afford to do."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.