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LAPD Pay Plan Leads 'Blue Flu' to Fizzle : Labor: Only 10 officers fail to report for duty. But news of a proposed 6% raise for police angers unions representing trash haulers, engineers and other city workers.

March 18, 1994|JAMES RAINEY and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A planned sickout by Los Angeles police fizzled Thursday when few officers failed to report for duty, but trouble erupted among other city unions angered that they have not been offered the same raises proposed for police.

Blue-collar workers and engineers had been close to contract settlements that would have given them little or no raises, but they have pulled back after reports that Mayor Richard Riordan is prepared to offer police about 6% over two years, sources familiar with negotiations said.

Angry union representatives said Thursday that they felt betrayed by Riordan because he is favoring public safety employees with raises. Two City Council members privately accused the mayor of botching negotiations by announcing his intent to offer police and firefighters a raise before concluding negotiations with other unions.

Nearly three-quarters of the city's 44,000 employees remain without contracts. They are represented by about 25 unions.

Riordan's staff on Thursday defended the mayor's announcement Wednesday that he intended to propose an unspecified raise, the city's first such offer in 21 months of negotiations. David Novak, Riordan's press secretary, said Riordan has stated in the past that he would like to give police a raise.

"The mayor's priority is to make Los Angeles safe," Novak said. "He has said that from a safe Los Angeles all else follows. (Police) are being paid a competitive salary to put their lives on the line for the people of Los Angeles. That is a very different type of public service than when people are not putting their life in danger or at risk."

Riordan also said that when his proposal is unveiled next week, he will call for rule changes that make it easier for police supervisors to transfer employees.

Although Riordan would not say how much he would increase police officers' pay, sources familiar with the proposal said it would give them about 6% over the two years beginning July 1.

Riordan has promised firefighters that they will receive whatever raises the police get.

But representatives of other city workers said they feel slighted and will have more trouble settling their differences with the city.

"We felt we were in the closing stages of our negotiations," said David Trowbridge of the Service Employees International Local 347, which represents custodians, trash haulers and other blue-collar workers. "But an announcement that the police officers and firefighters are going to get this increase really throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

"We feel we all provide very essential services to the city and we should get the same recognition and respect for the services we provide," Trowbridge said. "This proposal shows a preference for one group."

Sources said the union had been prepared to settle for a short-term contract with no expectation of an increase on July 1, when the raises for public safety employees would begin.

Although Trowbridge declined to discuss specifics, he said union members are agitating for more aggressive action. He noted that Department of Water and Power workers got a raise last fall after going on strike and that the announcement of a raise for police came on the day that a renegade group of officers had threatened the sickout.

One city architect said the union that represents the city's engineers and architects also had been prepared to settle for little or no raises, but now will push hard to win the same raise that police and firefighters receive.

"You have created in the mind of every employee organization the expectation that there is definitely going to be a significant salary increase," said the architect, who did not want to be identified.

Two council members described Riordan's handling of the pay issue as naive and ham-fisted.

"The mayor's trademark is to push ahead and do things now," said one council member who did not want to be identified. "There are times when that is appropriate, like after the earthquake, and we praised him then. But if you have the same style for every situation then you might end up where we are now."

The critiques of Riordan came a day after the Police Department revealed that notices had been sent to an unknown number of officers, asking them to call in sick this week.

The call, which was publicly criticized by police union officials, had no impact on attendance Thursday, several police officials said.

In fact, only 10 police officers called in sick, far fewer than normal. A preliminary investigation of those 10 officers suggested that all were legitimately ill, according to department sources.

The Police Department's management and executives at the Los Angeles Police Protective League had issued a rare joint communique urging officers not to take part in the sickout. It was unclear how many officers had planned the job action or whether the union's opposition had succeeded in heading it off.

But police union officials said they hoped their efforts had created goodwill that would lead to a settlement.

Meanwhile, leaders of the league complained that some details of the proposed contract as described to them appear unacceptable--particularly one provision that would make it easier to transfer detectives back to patrol and another that would cut into the pay of officers who are injured on duty.

"There's no way to sell that thing to the membership," one league official said. "They'd never go for it."

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