TAMPA — Contract disputes between Mayor Pam Iorio and two city unions have moved closer to resolution.
The two sides have been at odds largely over raises, which Iorio had warned would lead to layoffs.
The general employees union, which has more than 2,000 members, agreed late Tuesday to forgo merit raises in the 2010 fiscal year. The contract, which expired Sept. 30, calls for those increases to return in the 2011 fiscal year. Union members will vote on the contract next week.
Meanwhile, a special magistrate on Wednesday released his nonbinding opinion on the police union contract.
Like the general employees union, the police union had agreed to give up cost-of-living raises this year.
But the union wanted to keep so-called step increases that are awarded as officers rises through the ranks during their first 11 years on the force.
Magistrate John McCollister recommended that the city suspend the step increases for one year, but bring them back next year barring "an unanticipated catastrophe" on the scale of Hurricane Katrina.
McCollister, who heard the case in September, wrote that the Tampa police officers "sit atop the salary scale" when compared to officers in surrounding communities and "cannot in good conscience demand automatic raises," in the middle of a struggling economy.
On the other hand, he wrote, "the city cannot take for granted that it will continue to enjoy the benefit of a superior police force without offering fair compensation."
Police union president Greg Stout called McCollister's ruling a compromise that the union could accept.
"If they make an iron-clad guarantee that barring a catastrophic event the step plan would come back in a year, we would take that to the membership for a vote. Absolutely," he said.
Iorio did not a return a call for comment.
If the union and Iorio don't resolve their differences, the contract will go to the City Council for a vote.
Iorio is also at an impasse in negotiations with the firefighters union. That contract dispute went to a special magistrate in October.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.