Police in Walla Walla Washington Victorious in Salary Arbitration
The history of tension between the city and the police union in the otherwise peaceful town of Walla Walla in Washington State in the U.S. doomed contract negotiations to binding arbitration this year. This is the first time these contract talks have gone to arbitration in almost 30 years. That arbitration has gone in favor of the police union, who were awarded a retroactive 2.5% increase for 2013 and 2014 followed by a 3% increase in 2015 by arbitrator Kenneth James Latsch.
The tension stems from the prior contract negotiations, when the police union reluctantly agreed to a pay freeze when the city pleaded a lack of funds, and then watched incredulously as city officials were given 7.1% salary increases and other non-union city employees received raises of 5-7%. As a result, the police union ignored the city’s offer of 1.5% increases and demanded 5% raises all around. The tension made arbitration almost inevitable.
Arbitration also settled the issue of insurance contributions by police, with the arbitrator ordering that union members pay the 10% contribution that the city had requested. This was a defeat for the union, which had asked for a 5% contribution. However, as the salary increases were the main sticking point overall, the union regards the arbitration decision as a victory.
Other aspects of the contract negotiation were less controversial, with the union and city coming to terms on a number of issues as far back as 2012, when contract negotiations began, including grievance procedures, pay incentives and bereavement policies.