Police contract agreed after 15 months of negotiations

New Berkeley Police Department three-year contract comes after 15 months of talks. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

After lengthy negotiations, the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley Police Association (BPA) have reached agreement on a new three-year contract that forgoes cost of living increases, creates a second tier CalPERS pension formula for new employees, mandates cost sharing by employees in the employer’s contribution to CalPERS, and significantly changes retiree health benefits.

The new agreement was approved by the BPA at a July meeting by 107-21. It will be considered by the City Council at its September 11 meeting.

“I think it’s a fair agreement,” said Tim Kaplan, president of the BPA. “It was a long process, but it really was the true sense of collective bargaining. There was a lot of work done by the Police Association negotiating team to come up with creative solutions to the problems the city was facing. The state of the economy is not lost on our members at all. We’re helping in a number of ways through concessions.” 

According to calculations by city staff, the implementation of a second tier pension formula will result in savings of about 1.8% of covered payroll and roughly $1 million over 10 years. The cost sharing on the employer’s contribution is estimated to save $1.5 million over the life of the contract. The agreements on retiree health benefits reduces the actuarial liability by $2.8 million, and should result in savings of $14.5 million over the existing plan over 30 years.

“The Police Association is to be congratulated on a really excellent agreement,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “It’s an important statement by the police of their willingness to help the city.”

“We’ve had a good relationship with the city,” said the BPA’s Kaplan. “The negotiations were tense at times and long, but our relationship with the city remained good. We appreciate that. It really helps.
We feel part of the Berkeley community and we feel we were treated that way.”

City staff who negotiated the agreement were not available for comment.

The CalPERS second tier for new employees will be 3% at age 55, compared to the current arrangement of 3% at 50. On cost sharing, the agreement proposes that employees pay 1.5% of the city’s CalPERS contribution for the year from July, 2012. Employees will pay 3% of the contribution for the year from July, 2013. The cost sharing applies to all employees represented by the BPA regardless of the date of hiring.

One of the major breakthroughs in the agreement was over the Supplemental Police Retirement Plan. Since 1989, the BPA’s supplemental plan provides direct payment to the retiree and/or surviving spouse or domestic partner a dollar amount equivalent to the active two-party Kaiser monthly medical premium. There is no annual limit on the payments, and they have been subject to the large increases in Kaiser premiums over the last decade. The city had tried to change the arrangement in negotiations for the past 17 years, conscious of the cost and the unfunded liability the scheme presented. Those negotiations always failed, until the new agreement.

The new contract prospectively eliminates the Supplemental Police Retirement Plan and implements a Police Retiree Health Premium Assistance plan with a limit of the city’s future annual contribution to the lesser of the Kaiser annual premium increase or 6%. The city and the BPA also agreed to allow existing retirees to cease receiving the existing cash benefit and enroll in the new Police Retiree Health Premium Assistance Plan within six months of execution of the new labor contract.

The police represent the largest single cost in the city’s budget, but Mayor Bates said he did not think the agreement necessarily sets a benchmark for other negotiations conducted by the city.

“All of the negotiations are going to rise and fall with their individual circumstances,” he said.

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  • Güés†

    do we still pay our cops more than any of our neighboring cities?

  • EBGuy

     I’ll let you know if I find one that is comparable.  For starters, Berkeley pays their officers, lieutenants and sergeants salaries that are 25% more than the same job in Albany.

  • EBGuy

     Note that Berkeley Police pay the 9% CalPERs contribution from their base salaries, while the City of Albany pays the 9% contribution for their police force.  So the effective salary difference is closer to 16% for lieutenants and 14% for officers.  Always keep this in mind when comparing salary schedules.

  • bgal4

    Compare to the NYC, which is the most expensive US city to live

    starting cops $45,000 range
    Top salary     $90,000

    Bay area law enforcement are some of the highest paid in the nation

    After the lousy service I received Tuesday once again I am wondering why do they deserve such good pay.

  • Just get a gun and you wouldn’t need the police, or would you?   Maybe they’re over paid and maybe they aren’t but I’m not sure what I would compare their job to.  Maybe you would want their jobs but I wouldn’t even in cushy old Berkeley.  They’ve always been very responsive in out neighborhood.

  • Chris

     Which job is more dangerous? Cop in Albany vs cop in Berkeley?

  • EBGuy

     A Police Sergeant in Berkeley makes approximately 8% more than his Richmond counterpart.  Which job is more dangerous?

  • EBGuy

     A Berkeley Police Officer makes 30% more than his or her Oakland counterpart.  Which job is more dangerous?
    This extremely stark difference is due to Oakland’s two tier system (otherwise known as “throw the new guys under the bus”).

  • Chris

     Very good points – so why do we pay so much more?

    Is it a combination of a relatively dangerous/difficult city to work in and wanting to attract a better applicant? Are the Lieut. and Serg. in Berkeley relatively more experienced than their albany, rich, oakland counterparts?

    I would love to know if there is a concrete reason for this…

  • guest

     Here are a couple of interesting bits of information.

    (1.)  According to the SFGate article accessible below, “[Oakland’s]… Police Department already takes up roughly 40 percent of the budget.”Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Some-in-Oakland-fear-police-receivership-3832566.php#ixzz25XnGjnoOBy the way, the article is about how the Oakland PD is on the verge of being taken over by the Feds so that it practices can be brought in line with the US Constitution.(2.)  According to KTVU, “However it was Oakland, with 400,000 residents, that won first place
    with more than $57 million in payouts in just the last 10 years.”This story is about police abuse settlements in the Bay Area.  Here is the link to the KTVU story.http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/investigation-reveals-east-bay-city-paying-out-ext/nFdWy/#cmComments