WESLACO — After weeks of negotiating, Weslaco city leaders and the Weslaco Municipal Police Union have tentatively agreed upon amendments to the WMPU’s labor contract.
The agreement, which has been approved by the union’s membership, is expected to be formalized by the Weslaco City Commission at next Tuesday’s meeting, City Manager Mike Perez said. Upon approval by a majority vote of the commission, the two-year contract will go into effect Oct. 1 and will expire on Sept. 30, 2021.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Weslaco police officers will see a 2.5% across-the-board pay increase this coming fiscal year, and another 2.5% increase the following fiscal year.
The figures represent a compromise reached between the city and its officers after several rounds of frictionless negotiating. Originally, Weslaco had proposed a 2% pay increase for the first year of the contract, and a 1% increase for the second year. Union negotiators had proposed 5% increases for each year.
“We were able to come to (an) agreement on terms, which is most important,” union vice president Eric Hernandez said after Tuesday’s final collective bargaining session at city hall. Hernandez also serves as the department’s public information officer.
“The city represented itself well. We represented ourselves well, and we were able to come to an agreement,” Hernandez said.
The city manager, too, spoke of how smoothly discussions went throughout the bargaining process. “A lot of it depends on who’s sitting around the table and what the dynamics are at the time,” Perez said. “And I think today, the session, the people sitting around the table, the dynamics was very good and we were fortunate to work out a reasonable contract between management and labor.”
With the pay bump, starting pay for a patrol officer will go from the current rate of $45,475.88 to $46,611 in FY 2019-2020, and $47,776 in FY 2020-2021.
Sergeants will see their base pay increase from $52,787.97 currently to $54,106 this coming fiscal year. Base pay for lieutenants will increase from $58,914.63 this year, to $60,386, while the base pay for captains will increase from $68,583 to $70,297.
Pay rates for assistant chiefs, who are appointed to the position by the police chief, will remain at the discretion of the chief, but are not to be set at less than 5% over the highest paid captain, according to a draft copy of the labor agreement.
Other changes to the labor contract include updating the titles and staffing limits for special assignments, which entitle officers to an additional $2,000 per year pay incentive. Officers can be given more than one special assignment, but may only receive incentive pay for one assignment, Perez explained during a previous bargaining meeting.
Special assignments include such positions as field training officers, criminal investigations division, SWAT team, motorcycle officers and others.
The two sides also agreed to several changes in the department’s sick leave policy.
Under the new agreement, officers will be able to use department sick leave to “mitigate the effect of injuries sustained while working employment outside the Department but within the city limits of Weslaco,” according to the draft agreement.
Too, officers will be able to donate vacation or sick leave hours into a pool for use by other officers who have exhausted their own leave. Officers will be able to donate up to 50 hours of leave “at face value,” according to the draft agreement.
Perez explained the “face value” specification allows officers to donate time to fellow officers of different ranks and pay scales. “They’ll put it in the pool and then whatever the hourly rate is, that’s what it’s going to be calculated at. So it’s a little fairer,” Perez said.