OAKLAND — Oakland police officers began voting Wednesday on a contract extension that would freeze wages until 2013 but could prove crucial to saving jobs in the department.
The vote got under way with the city facing an ongoing budget crisis and after the leadership of the Oakland Police Officers Association reached a tentative deal with the City Council after months of negotiations that sometimes turned bitter. Officials on both sides are now hoping the contract changes are approved.
"I think it's a good deal for everybody right now," said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the police union president. "It will save jobs. It will save the city money."
City projections show the contract changes would save the city $11.8 million per fiscal year from now through June 2012. It would save the city $6.7 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year, the projections show.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale), who offered tough words when negotiations hit a snag in June, praised the union leadership for "negotiating in good faith" and acknowledged that officers would be sacrificing 4 percent pay increases promised to them in a contract secured in 2008.
"The way we see it is it's going to save jobs for police officers," De La Fuente said.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, officers would have their contract, due to expire June 30, extended through June 2013. Officers would defer the 4 percent pay hikes until Jan. 1, 2013, when they also would begin paying 2 percent of their salaries into their retirement. Officers currently do not contribute to their retirement.
Police would lose holiday pay for six of 13 holidays through June 2012 before returning to a 13-holiday schedule in the contract's final year. Premium pay for officers working late-night or overnight patrol shifts would be given only to officers with at least four years of service.
Oakland's budget remains in terrible shape even after the council took drastic action to fill an $83 million general fund budget hole June 30 and after city voters approved four revenue-generating ballot measures in a special mail-only election that ended Tuesday.
Projections show Oakland facing a $19.1 million general fund deficit in part because the city will receive less than a third of what it originally hoped for from a federal grant to pay for police officers, and also because officials have not yet implemented $11.9 million in Police Department spending cuts approved by the council June 30.
Of the $11.8 million the city expects to save if officers approve the labor deal, $8.5 million would go to general fund and would significantly decrease that fund's deficit.
The council will meet to address the budget problems at a special 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday. City Councilmember Jean Quan (Montclair-Laurel), head of the council's finance committee, said it would be "very, very, very hard" to avoid police layoffs without the union deal but that it could be possible to make budget cuts that avoid cutting police positions if the deal is approved.
Voting on the contract change is expected to conclude Tuesday.
Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.