Anchorage cops have joined firefighters in agreeing to forgo some pay raises as the city confronts a budget shortfall, according to a new labor deal negotiated with the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the local police union.
Officials say the deal, if approved by the Anchorage Assembly, will save the city about $1 million over the next three years. The contract is between the city and the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.
Police union members will still see annual raises of 1.5 percent 2019 and 2020. An officer who retires in 2018 is also still eligible for a raise of the same amount.
"The city is facing some tough economic times," said union president Brian Wilson, an APD sergeant. "And we've got to balance that with being able to recruit and retain, because we still need professional police officers."
The Berkowitz administration reached a similar deal with the city's fire union earlier this year. City manager Bill Falsey said the city and its employees are all "adjusting to economic reality."
For the police, the new agreement voids an existing three-year contract that called for a 1.5 percent raise in 2018. A substitute contract will start Jan. 1 and run until the end of 2020. It includes raises in the last two years, balanced with rising contributions for medical benefits. Apart from wages, little else in the contract is new, according Wilson and to documents provided to the Assembly.
Prior labor contracts negotiated by Berkowitz and his immediate predecessor, Mayor Dan Sullivan, included annual raises of 1.5 percent. That's about the average rate of inflation in Anchorage since 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It isn't typical for Anchorage unions to negotiate labor deals without raises. In the case of the firefighters, the estimated savings was also $1 million over the life of the contract, officials said. Firefighters agreed to go without a raise in the second half of this year and in two of the next three years.
Wilson called his union's agreement "very similar" to the one negotiated by the fire union.
He said he also recalled his union giving back a 3 percent pay boost in 2009 during the interim mayorship of Matt Claman, when the city also faced a big deficit.
Members of the union ratified the new deal on Nov. 1. The union represents roughly 525 employees.
The Assembly is expected to hold a public hearing on the labor deal at its first meeting in December.