By Tim Eberly
Fourteen Havre police officers voted Monday night in favor of a salary proposal from the City Council's labor and negotiation committee.
The salary agreement, which took more than eight months to reach, will give the Havre officers in the Montana Public Employees Association a 4 percent raise for the 2001-2002 fiscal year. It also decreased the number of levels in the police department from nine to six, which will facilitate the promotion of officers.
"They weren't totally satisfied with the deal," said MPEA representative Dick Letang, who attended the meeting. "But they understood that with the budget already set, that was the best they could do."
Two officers in the union were not present for the vote, which took place at the Havre Police Department. The youngest officer, 22-year-old Jared Kuka, was away at basic training. The other absentee, senior patrol officer Troy Burdick, quit in late December after accepting a higher-paying law enforcement position in Three Forks.
The salary agreement "does nothing for the future problems of losing people to other departments," said police officer Terry Frandsen. "Nothing has changed. It's just basically been postponed by the fact that the city set their budget, which isn't fair."
In December, the officers considered the option of a strike to get the city to meet their demands, which included a 7 percent pay raise for the upper-tier employees of the department and a 4 percent boost for the five positions below sergeant. They also wanted a multi-year contract. The top three police administrators are not members of the bargaining unit.
Both sides reached a tentative agreement on Dec. 26, during a meeting that lasted more than four hours.
Negotiations for next year will begin in March, Letang said. The officers will use the next negotiation period to settle unresolved issues like a pay scale competitive with larger cities in Montana.