Cost of Living payments key to resolving CPOA contract with Claremont

The impasse between Claremont and the Claremont Police Officers’ Association (CPOA) is over.  

The news came after a closed negotiation session Tuesday evening. In addition to a tentative agreement on a new employee contract, which will be valid through 2014, the CPOA has dropped both outstanding lawsuits against the city.

“With this agreement the city council achieves several long term goals, specifically [that] all bargaining units are now on the same negotiation schedule and all employees will be paying the full amount of their share of the PERS [Public Employees’ Retirement System] contribution by the end of the contract,” said Mayor Larry Schroeder on Tuesday. “The contracts negotiated this past year help ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the city. I’d like to thank our employees for their contributions and their cooperation during this process.”

The CPOA board will present the finalized version of the contract to its members next week and a city council vote will take place at its April 10 meeting, according to a city news release.

Under the new contract, police will pay their full PERS contribution, which totals 9 percent (or 8 percent for employees like dispatchers, who don’t carry weapons) by 2013. In return, they will receive a total 5 percent Cost of Living Adjustment through the end of the contract term, a 0.5 percent increase from what they were originally proposed and what other Claremont employee groups received.

The compromise was made “in order to secure a long-term contract with the police that was mutually beneficial to everyone,” according to City Manager Tony Ramos.

The original contract from 2012, imposed after reaching an impasse, gave them a 1.5 percent COLA and they began paying 6 percent of their PERS. Under the new contract, they will receive another 1.5 percent COLA. They will pay the remaining 3 percent PERS with an extra 2 percent COLA by July 2013.

Under this plan, a starting Claremont Police Officer, who makes an annual base rate of $64,248, is currently paying 6 percent, or $3,970 of their gross income, in PERS contributions. At the full 9 percent contribution, that same officer will be paying $5,782, according to Finance Director Adam Pirrie.

Though police originally requested a minimum 2 percent COLA increase per year, a majority of the CPOA board was happy with the proposal.

“The association felt it was a fair deal based on what we have given up in the past” said CPOA president Detective Rick Varney referencing previous pay cuts.  “We just wanted to receive some of that back,” he said.

Det. Varney was named the CPOA president in January after previously serving as president in past years. With all of the struggles with the association and the city, Det. Varney says he was inspired to return to his previous post.

The tentative agreement ends months of unsuccessful negotiations between the 2 bargaining groups.  Det. Varney partially credits returning to the table without legal counsel for the successful result.

“This time we had that ‘open-line’ communication, which was a huge key in negotiations,” Det. Varney. “Everyone walked away happy.”

As the CPOA meets with its membership to vote on the tentative contract, the Claremont Police Management Association is set to meet for further negotiations early next week, hopeful for similar results.

The CPOA and other employee groups will negotiate contracts again in 2014.  

“I am pleased with the outcome of the negotiations and want to thank the CPOA members for their cooperation during this process,” Mr. Ramos concluded in a recent statement. “They provide an outstanding service to our community and have shown a willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the long-term stability of the city.”

—Beth Hartnett


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