City of San Antonio, police union extend contract talks

No agreement yet on the city’s top priority -- reducing an arbitrator’s power in the appeals process

Dates for the next discussions have not yet been announced, but officials are confident in a resolution soon.

San Antonio – With no deal in sight on several key issues, the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Officers Association have agreed to extend their contract talks through May 12.

The original 60-day window for collective bargaining ends on April 27, and Monday was the last bargaining day in their original schedule. By agreeing to a 15-day extension, the two sides can keep the talks going. The current contract runs through Sept. 30 and has an eight-year evergreen clause.

Though they have resolved numerous smaller issues, the city and police union haven’t reached deals on police officer wages, health care costs, or the city’s top priority -- reforming the appeals process for fired SAPD officers.

“We had a productive conversation at the last two meetings in terms of arbitration. So there’s definitely a path forward for us to continue those conversations,” the city’s lead negotiator, Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez, said after Monday’s session.

The city wants to ensure the chief’s decision to fire an officer is given deference during any appeal. It has been pushing to limit the conditions under which an arbitrator could reduce that punishment. The union, meanwhile, is worried the city’s proposals would undercut their members’ ability to effectively challenge what they think are unfair firings.

“We’re getting closer each time to figuring out what each side is it’s trying to do,” said Sgt. Christopher Lutton, SAPOA’s negotiations committee chairman.

Given the city’s focus discipline reforms, especially regarding the arbitration process, a 60-day turnaround on the contract was always unlikely. The previous contract discussions, when the city was focused on overhauling officer health care, took more than two years.

But these contract talks are also happening under the shadow of a ballot measure that could stop them in place.

Proposition B on the May 1 ballot would repeal San Antonio police officers’ collective bargaining power. Should voters pass the proposition, the two sides would no longer be able to negotiate.

Read more about Proposition B HERE

Advocates of Prop B have said a similar system of labor negotiations known as “meet and confer” could be used instead. However, it would not happen automatically.

The city and union have not set a date for their next negotiating session. The union says it needs to review information on other police departments’ appeals processes that the city provided before it’s ready to come back to the bargaining table -- if it’s able to come back at all.

“It’s all going to be decided in the next 10 or 15 days,” the union’s lead negotiator, attorney Ron DeLord, said near the end of Monday’s session. “So, then, you know, the voters will tell us what they want us to do.”

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.