University Police Department union to resume talks after first deal falters

The University will return to the bargaining table with union leaders for two days of negotiations next week, after unionized University Police officers rejected Monday a proposed contract with GW.

In a 45-9 vote, officers in the International Union, Security, Police, Fire Professionals of America nixed a deal reached late last week with the University, Darrin Carter, head of the Local 294 branch the University Police Department officers fall under, said. While their contract expired Dec. 31 and talks on wage hikes and leave policies have been strained, he said picketing will not begin immediately to give each side’s attorneys time to confer and hash out another deal.

“[Members] think it’s a contract that just doesn’t respect the officers,” Carter said. “We want to give one last opportunity to talk to see if we can fix our differences. If we can fix our differences, this goes away.”

Deliberations will continue Feb. 16 and 17, Guy Thomas, one of the union’s national directors, said. The rejection of the proposal brings officers one step closer to picketing outside UPD’s headquarters at the Woodhull House – still working their scheduled shifts but forming a line and passing out literature to share information on their cause – if next week’s talks fail to build an agreement that officers pass.

“We are disappointed that the members of the GWPD bargaining unit did not ratify the agreement negotiated for them by their union representatives,” a University statement provided by the Office of Media Relations read. “We look forward to meeting with the negotiating team soon and hope to reach an agreement that will be approved by the bargaining unit.”

Carter was fired from UPD in June for absences without leave but he remains the head of the union’s local branch as the union is still arbitrating his dismissal.

The rejected deal offered a 3-percent pay increase for the first year of a three-year contract, but would have reopened wage negotiations for the second and third years, according to a proposal obtained by The Hatchet. It did not include a pay raise for night differentials, or wages for work between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., which union leaders said has remained at a 75-cent-per-hour standstill for more than 15 years.

Security patrol officers at GW earn about $42,000 annually, Carter said. The national average annual pay for police patrol officers at colleges and universities is about $46,560, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published in May 2010. The 3-percent raise would boost wages for GW’s officers from $21.41 to $22.05 hourly – 34 cents lower than the national hourly pay.

Thomas said the union hopes to reach agreement, but if not, it will “explore all our options” including informational picketing and, if that does not produce results, striking. But picketing would be the group’s first course of action, as it would be least disruptive to students and faculty, he said.

Officers also disapproved of a provision that would allow supervisors to cancel an officer’s leave in emergency cases, Carter said. The policy would require officers with previously granted time off to show up at work if they could not present a receipt declaring a $100 or higher vacation cost.

Carter said the union would not wait longer than a week to reach another deal and will otherwise picket.

“Everyone has spoken for themselves,” he said.

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