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A Marco Island police union representative has accused the acting city manager Guillermo Polanco of "dodging" negotiations after another scheduled meeting was cut short due to his absence. 

Officer John Derrig made the comment Wednesday after explaining a new proposal to Police Chief Al Schettino and seeking clarification about whether or not the city will lower its contributions to the police pension. With Schettino referring the question to Polanco, whose absence was due to illness, union members expressed frustration due to mounting absences and a lack of counteroffer from the city.

"It seems like Gil is dodging us, and I believe he is," Derrig said.

More: Police union proposes pay step plan as Marco Island contract negotiations begin

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Prior to Wednesday's scheduled bargaining meeting, the city and union appeared to be on solid footing with respect to instituting a step program and increasing compensation for its officers.

Under the current proposal, starting pay for officers would see an increase up to around $45,000, which would aid in recruiting.

For officers that made under that amount, they would be inputted into a step program, which would allow them to plan for how they're compensation would change if they remained in the department.

For current officers in-between the proposed steps, the city has offered five percent annual raises, which has been well-received by the union.

During Wednesday's meeting, however, the union expressed concerns with less experienced officers receiving a larger percentage increase in pay over more tenured officers that have not been compensated fairly in the past.

For years, Marco Island police officers did not receive an increase in pay, making their compensation not commensurate with experience.

"Gil had a problem with officers receiving different percentages," Police Benevolent Association Gulf Coast Chapter President Matt Sellers said. "We kind of take the same stance based on that. We would like to propose something like officers, who have been here, receive more of a fair increase."

Sellers and Derrig estimated that some of the officers that recently started would receive around 15 percent raises versus their colleagues.

While acknowledging that the increase in starting pay would help with recruiting, Sellers said that the union membership was more concerned with retaining officers and making the department a career destination.

Derrig said that if the city reduces contributions to its pension like Polanco suggested at the first negotiation meeting, the city would benefit by almost $1 million over the next three years. His response was for the city to use some of the dollars to improve compensation.

"We're just asking to get paid what we deserve and what every other agency would pay," Derrig said.

With Polanco absent for another meeting, some union members grew concerned about the city potentially negotiating in bad faith and the process dragging on given that an interim city manager may be hired on Dec. 10.

"They have to negotiate in good faith and as soon as there becomes a case of unfair labor practice, then we will address that," Sellers said.

Based upon the unresolved issues with pay compression, Sellers said that it was unlikely that the union would accept the contract currently on the table.

"I have to present this to the membership and quite frankly at this point, the majority wouldn't approve of that," Sellers said.

More: The issue is retention: Police union, city work to negotiate new agreement

 

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