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Impasse declared in USF, cops talks
A special magistrate will now review both sides' contract offers.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 21, 2007
TAMPA - University of South Florida administrators, frustrated as they enter their seventh month of contract talks with police union leaders, are crying deadlock.
USF spokesman Ken Gullette announced administrators' decision to declare an impasse Thursday.
"It is unfair, quite frankly, to our officers for them to have to continue with no new agreement in place, as well as all of the uncertainty," Gullette said. "Therefore, we believe that moving the negotiations through the impasse process is our best option at this time."
The impasse means a special magistrate, selected by both sides, will review their respective contract proposals and come up with a nonbinding recommendation. If both agree to the terms of that contract, it becomes official. If not, the matter moves to USF's Board of Trustees, who would come up with a contract, Gullette said.
"They could throw it all out and come up with their own," he said of the trustees. "They are the ultimate legislative body here."
This is the first time the university has declared an impasse in a union negotiation, and it comes amid great scrutiny about the state of security on USF's main campus, located near some of the county's most high-crime areas.
A national security consultant hired by administrators this fall recently warned that USF's 40-officer Police Department is "understaffed" and overworked because of hiring and retention struggles that are exacerbated by a poor pay package.
The starting salary is now $35,041, at least $4,000 less than what neighboring law enforcement agencies offer.
Gullette said USF officials know they need to pay their officers more and bring the department up to its full 53-officer capacity. The university's most recent contract offer would raise an officer's salary to $38,500 within the first two years. Officers with two to five years in the department would make $40,000 and get a $2,500 bonus.
But the union proposes a $3,000 bonus, as well as a steeper "step" pay increase plan than what USF officials propose.
Gullette said union officials canceled a Dec. 14 negotiating meeting with no indication they would reschedule, and that prompted administrators to seek the independent magistrate.
"It's unfortunate it came to this," Gullette said. "But we just do not believe this needs to drag on into the new year."