The president of the union representing Los Angeles police officers said Wednesday it appears that members have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that would raise their pay 10.25% over the next three years.
If so, it would deliver a significant victory to city officials and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who are hoping that it will temper the demands of unions representing other city workers given the city's tight budget.
Bob Baker, president of the Police Protective League, said a sampling of the more than 3,000 ballots cast during four days of voting indicates the contract was approved by about 70% of the members. The voting concluded Tuesday night.
"The contract overall is fair. It's modest," Baker said. "I don't think it's over the top."
Baker said an official vote count would be completed and released today. The contract includes a 3% raise July 1, 3.5% on July 1, 2007 and 3.75% a year later. The city's 9,200 police officers also won some concessions on language giving them more say over their work schedules.
Some younger officers who are aware of what other law enforcement agencies are paying were dissatisfied with the contract proposal, Baker said.
"But most understand there is some financial hardship that the city is enduring," he said, noting that city officials have been wrestling with a budget shortfall.
The contract still requires City Council approval, but President Eric Garcetti predicted smooth sailing. He said members are anxious to set the tone for negotiations with more than a half-dozen other city unions representing public safety employees whose contracts expire during the next year.
Other unions currently negotiating include those representing police command officers, firefighters, fire department command staff and airport and harbor police officers.
"It's great for the city to resolve this issue so smoothly and so quickly," Garcetti said. "This council has prioritized public safety as its top concern and this is half of public safety."
Garcetti said if tradition holds, the firefighters would get a similar deal. Unions representing civilian employees have been getting smaller raises -- 6.25% over three years -- but those groups have been demanding more ever since the City Council approved a contract with Department of Water and Power employees that guarantees raises of at least 16% over five years, but allows for raises of up to 31% if inflation runs that high.
Council members approved the DWP raises last year based on the argument that the agency is financially self-sufficient, not part of the city general fund and must compete for workers with private utilities.
However, the Engineers and Architects Assn. union has been demanding the same contract given to DWP workers, arguing that its employees do much the same work, but for general fund departments that pay less.
Members of the Engineers and Architects Assn., who have picketed city facilities and hounded the mayor at public events, are scheduled to meet Saturday at a downtown hotel to discuss the police contract and what to do next.
Robert Aquino, executive director of the engineers group, said that if they could get the same raises provided in the police contract it would be an improvement on the city's last offer to the union of 6.25% over three years. Although the city has not traditionally given civilian employees raises as high as those provided police officers and firefighters, Aquino said a new precedent has been set with the DWP contract.
"We haven't dropped our demands," he said, adding one topic on Saturday's agenda will be "talking about stepping up actions."