In a move that ends months of labor strife but potentially creates new problems down the road, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved salary increases for police officers and unexpectedly gave slightly smaller raises to the rest of the city work force as well.
Officials said they have the money in city coffers to give all workers raises in the fiscal year that begins Friday but will have to make difficult choices next year to sustain the hikes--such as tax increases or service cutbacks.
"We may have to do things that are unattractive," Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg said. "Yes, we will find the money. Do we know where? No."
The raises are the first granted to employees in two years and mark a turnaround for a city that has long told labor unions that it was too broke to boost salaries. Several unions had recently agreed to forgo raises, but they complained to council members when they learned that the city had found tens of millions of dollars for police pay hikes.
The $50-million police pact, overwhelmingly ratified by union members last week, gives all 7,400 officers ranked lieutenant and below a 7% raise, a 2% patrol incentive and a $1,500 cash bonus--spread over the next 18 months.
The 12-3 vote for the police raise--with council members Marvin Braude, Rita Walters and Zev Yaroslavsky dissenting--ends a sometimes chaotic two-year standoff that included mass sickouts, picketing, job slowdowns and billboards knocking the city's image.
"This puts behind a roller coaster of negotiations that has not been healthy for the city but ends with a fairly good result," Mayor Richard Riordan said at a news conference announcing the council's vote.
The council voted 14 to 1 to give 19,000 other city employees, excluding top managers, 2% raises in each of the next two years. That will cost the city an additional $12 million this year and $24 million in 1995-96, according to official estimates.
In all, the raises are expected to cost about $52 million this fiscal year--more than double the $25 million allocated in the city's $4.3-billion budget. Most of the money needed to cover the difference will come from the Police Department. The LAPD did not hire as many officers last year as planned and as a result has about $18 million in salary savings and millions more in unpaid pension contributions, officials said.
Salary increases for firefighters and police officers ranked captain and above are still undetermined, although the unions representing those groups are pushing for the same deal offered to rank-and-file police officers.
The city's effort to hold the line on salaries started to break down last fall when Department of Water and Power workers won a 9% pay increase after staging a nine-day strike. The police union then demanded a comparable settlement, and intensified its campaign to pressure the city into a favorable contract.
Finally, the council felt obligated to give the rest of the city work force a raise as a matter of fairness and to prevent future labor strife. As a result, council members are bracing for tough choices head.
"It's hard for me to imagine that we won't have to review the issue of cutting costs or increasing revenues," said Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who supported the raises. "The more unpleasant way of saying that is: layoffs or taxes."
Union leaders representing janitors, sanitation workers and clerk typists were thrilled with the raises.
"We're beyond happy--but I suspect that our members feel that they deserve what everyone else got," said Julie Butcher, spokeswoman for Local 347 of Service Employees International Union, which represents 5,500 blue-collar employees.
Riordan went along with the additional civilian raises, although he said he considered them excessive.
"I think it's being overly generous," Riordan said, "but I'm realistic and a team player and I went along with it."
Even with the raise, Los Angeles police officers are paid less than their colleagues in many departments elsewhere in California. But city statistics indicate that the city's civilian workers earn salaries roughly equivalent to or greater than those received by government workers in Long Beach, San Diego, Glendale and Los Angeles County.
Leaders of some city unions disputed those statistics, saying that the salaries of Los Angeles' blue-collar workers do not compare as favorably with those in big cities across the country.
Braude, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, was the sole member of the council to vote against both the police and civilian raises. He called his colleagues irresponsible for approving raises without any firm idea where the money is coming from.
"I think that the police officers deserve $75,000 a year," he said. "I'd like to pay them more. But where's the money going to come from?"