Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association

And

Spokane County

Interest Arbitration

Arbitrator:      Alan R. Krebs

Date Issued:   07/12/1999

 

 

Arbitrator:         Krebs; Alan R.

Case #:              13815-I-98-00298

Employer:          Spokane County

Union:                Spokane County Deputy Sheriff's Association

Date Issued:      07/12/1999

 

 

IN THE MATTER OF

SPOKANE COUNTY

AND

SPOKANE COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFF'S ASSOCIATION

 

PERC No.: 13815-I-98-298

Date Issued: July 12, 1999

 

INTEREST ARBITRATION OPINION AND AWARD

OF

ALAN R. KREBS

 

Appearances:

SPOKANE COUNTY                                                                           Otto G. Klein, III

SPOKANE COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFF'S ASSOCIATION         Thomas R. Luciani

 

IN THE MATTER OF

SPOKANE COUNTY

AND

SPOKANE COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFF'S ASSOCIATION

 

OPINION OF THE NEUTRAL CHAIRMAN

 

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

      In accordance with RCW 41.56.450, an interest arbitration

hearing involving certain uniformed personnel of Spokane County

was held before an arbitration panel consisting of three persons.

Spokane County appointed Pat Dalton as its designee on the Panel.

Spokane County Deputy Sheriff's Association appointed Mark F.

Brennan as its designee on the Panel. Arbitrator Alan R. Krebs

was selected as the Neutral Chairman of the Panel. The hearing

was held in Spokane, Washington on April 22 and 23, 1999. The

Employer was represented by Otto G. Klein, III of the Summit Law

Group. The Association was represented by Thomas R. Luciani. of

the law firm Stamper, Rubens, Stocker and Smith, P.S.

      At the hearing, the testimony of witnesses was taken under

oath and the parties presented documentary evidence. There was

no court reporter, and therefore, the Arbitration Panel tape

recorded the proceedings.

      The parties agreed upon the submission of post-hearing

briefs. The Neutral Chairman received the briefs on June 3,

1999. RCW 41.56.470 provides that the Neutral Chairman, after

consulting with the other members of the Arbitration Panel, shall

make "a written determination of the issues in dispute, based on

the evidence Presented." On June 25, 1999, the Arbitration Panel

discussed the issues by conference call. Thereafter, the Neutral

Chairman provided a copy of his draft decision to the other Panel

members for review and comment before the final decision was

provided to the parties.

 

APPLICABLE STATUTORY PROVISIONS

      Where certain public employers and their uniformed personnel

are unable to reach agreement on new contract terms by means of

negotiations and mediation, RCW 41.56.450 calls for interest

arbitration to resolve their disputes. The parties agree that

RCW 41.56.450 is applicable to the bargaining unit of deputy

sheriffs, detectives, and sergeants involved here. In interest

arbitration, an arbitrator or arbitration panel adjudicates a

resolution to contract issues regarding terms and conditions of

employment which are at impasse following collective bargaining

negotiations. Arbitrators are generally mindful that interest

arbitration is an extension of the bargaining process. They

recognize those contract provisions upon which the parties could

agree and decide the remaining issues in a manner which would

approximate the result which the parties would likely have

reached in good faith negotiations considering the statutory

criteria.

      RCW 41.56.465 sets forth the criteria which must be

considered by an arbitration panel in deciding the controversy:

      RCW 41.56.465 Uniformed personnel--

Interest arbitration panel--Determinations

Factors to be considered. (1) In making its

determination, the panel shall be mindful of

the legislative purpose enumerated in RCW

41.56.430 and, as additional standards or

guidelines to aid it in reaching a decision,

it shall take into consideration the

following factors:

      (a) The constitutional and statutory

authority of the employer;

      (b) Stipulations of the parties;

      (c) (i) For employees listed in

RCW 41.56.030(7)(a) through (d), a

comparison of the wages, hours

and conditions of employment of

personnel involved in the proceedings

with the wages, hours and conditions of

employment of like personnel of like

employers of similar size on the west

coast of the United States;

      (d) The average consumer prices

for goods and services, commonly known

as the cost of living;

      (e) Changes in any of the

circumstances under (a) through (d) of

this subsection during the pendency of

the proceedings; and

      (f) Such other factors, not confined

to the factors under (a) through (e) of

this subsection, that are normally or

traditionally taken into consideration

in the determination of wages, hours, and

conditions of employment. ...

RCW 41.56.430, which is referenced in RCW 41.56.465, reads as

follows:

      RCW 41.56.430 Uniformed personnel--

Legislative declaration. The intent and

purpose of this 1973 amendatory act is to

recognize that there exists a public policy

in the state of Washington against strikes by

uniformed personnel as a means of settling

their labor disputes; that the uninterrupted

and dedicated service of these classes of

employees is vital to the welfare and public

safety of the state of Washington; that to

promote such dedicated and uninterrupted

public service there should exist an effective

and adequate alternative means of settling

disputes.

 

ISSUES

      The Union represents about 130 deputies, 30 detectives and

19 sergeants of the Spokane County Sheriff's Department. The

Union and the Employer are parties to a collective bargaining

agreement which expired on December 31, 1996. They were unable

to reach an agreement on a new contract despite their efforts in

negotiations and the assistance of a mediator. In accordance

with 41.56.450, the executive director of the Washington State

Public Employment Commission certified that the parties were at

impasse on a number of issues. The statutory interest

arbitration procedures were invoked. The only issues remaining

before the Arbitration Panel are wages for the years 1997, 1998,

and 1999. The Parties' wage proposals are as follows:

___________________________________________________________________

1997

 Employer:         3.1% increase for deputies

                             0% increase for detectives and sergeants

                           $500 lump sum payment for detectives and

                           sergeants (not to be added to base wage

                           rates)

 Union:               6.0% across the board increase

 

1998

 Employer:         3.7% across the board increase

 Union:               5.0% across the board increase

 

1999

 Employer:         2.5% across the board increase

 Union:               5.0% across the board increase.

___________________________________________________________________

 

COMPARABLE JURISDICTIONS

      One of the primary standards or guidelines enumerated in RCW

41.56.465 upon which an interest arbitrator must rely in reaching

a decision is a "comparison of the wages, hours and conditions of

employment of personnel involved in the proceedings with the

wages, hours and conditions of employment of like personnel of

like employers of similar size on the west coast of the United

States." The parties agree that three Washington counties are

"like employers" which are appropriately comparable to Spokane

County: Clark, Pierce, and Snohomish. The parties disagree as

to other comparable jurisdictions. The Employer suggests that

three other counties located in the State of Washington, i.e.,

Yakima, Kitsap, and Benton Counties, are comparable. The Union

urges that Marion and Washington Counties, which are situated in

Oregon, are comparable.

      Both parties agree that in determining which employers are

like employers of similar size on the west coast. . . ," it is

appropriate to consider sheriff's departments within Washington

State which are located in counties with a population band of at

least half and no more that twice that of Spokane County. Both

parties would exclude California employers from consideration.

      The Union argues that there is a historical basis for its

reliance on the five counties which it has proposed as comparable

to Spokane County. It asserts that in collective bargaining

negotiations between the Employer and the Union since the early

1980's, the parties have consistently relied upon the labor

contracts involving their counterparts in those five counties.

While conceding that Yakima and Kitsap counties fall within the

population band which both parties agree is comparable to Spokane

County, the Union asserts that this "minimal compliance with an

informal standard is insufficient to override a 15 year history."

The Union argues that "there is neither statutory, nor logical

rationale" for including Benton County as a comparable

jurisdiction. It reasons that the population of Benton County

and the size of its sheriff's department are both much smaller

than that of Spokane County.

      The Employer argues that Kitsap and Yakima Counties are

comparable because they fall within the population band which

both parties have utilized to determine comparability. The

Employer recognizes that Benton County falls outside of this

population band, but nevertheless urges its consideration. The

employer reasons that interest arbitrators consider geography

when selecting comparable jurisdictions and, where the subject

employer is an eastern Washington jurisdiction, they have

generally weighted their lists with additional eastern Washington

jurisdictions. The Employer points out that the agreed-upon

population band contains only one eastern Washington county and

that Benton County is the next largest of the eastern Washington

counties. The Employer relies upon a 1995 interest arbitration

decision by Arbitrator Levak involving Spokane County and another

union which represents its correctional employees. In that

decision, Arbitrator Levak found that Benton County is comparable

to Spokane County in view of its "similar. . core area population,

education, per capita income and average wage paid," as well as

the tendency of arbitrators to utilize eastern Washington

comparators to the greatest extent possible in cases involving

eastern Washington jurisdictions. The Employer points out that

Benton County is still economically better off than Spokane

County with regard to annual average covered wage, per capita

income, and average net earnings per worker. The Employer urges

that the reasoning of Arbitrator Levak be adopted here, so that

it would have consistency across its bargaining units that are

eligible for interest arbitration. The Employer contends that

Marion and Washington Counties should not be used as comparables.

It asserts that there is no reason why these Oregon counties were

included, but three other Oregon counties which fit within the

population band, i.e., Clackamus, Lane, and Multnomah Counties,

were excluded. The Employer contends that other interest

arbitrators have not used Oregon counties in selecting comparable

jurisdictions for eastern Washington jurisdictions, and there is

nothing special about Spokane County which requires that Oregon

comparables be used. The Employer asserts that the parties'

bargaining history, while indicating that Marion and Washington

counties have been used as comparables on some occasions in

bargaining, also indicates that there were a great many other

jurisdictions used as comparables over the years, with no

consistent pattern.

      Below are listed the populations of all counties in

Washington which fall within the agreed upon relevant population

band of half to twice that of Spokane County. Also included are

Benton County and other Washington counties with a higher

population than that of Benton County, but which fail to meet the

minimum criteria.

___________________________________________________________________

Pierce County 686,800

Snohomish County              568,100

Spokane County                  410,900

Clark County  328,000

Kitsap County                     229,000

Yakima County                   210,500

 

Thurston County                 199,700

Whatcom County                157,500

Benton County                    137,500

___________________________________________________________________

Below are listed all counties in Oregon which fall within the

agreed-upon population band.

___________________________________________________________________

Multnomah County             624,903

Washington County            383,603

Clackamus County              324,043

Lane County   306,862

Marion County                    260,919

___________________________________________________________________

      With regard to the parties' prior use of comparables during

bargaining, no documentary evidence was presented. The testimony

offered on this subject was brief, short on details, and confined

to two witnesses. Detective Don Blashill testified first on this

subject for the Union. Labor Relations Manager Gary Carlsen then

testified for the Employer. Detective Blashill testified that he

has participated in collective bargaining negotiations since

1985. On direct examination Detective Blashill stated that

Marion and Washington Counties "are organizations that [the

parties] have used in the past" and which the Union offered as

comparable jurisdictions when collective bargaining for the

agreement at issue here commenced. On cross examination,

Detective Blashill testified that in collective bargaining

negotiations since 1991, the Union has relied upon its five

proffered comparable jurisdictions, and has not relied upon

Multnomah, Lane, or Clackamus Counties. On redirect examination,

Detective Blashill testified that in the past, the Union has

proposed Marion and Washington Counties, and the Employer has

accepted them as legitimate comparables. Mr. Carlsen has been

employed by the Employer for about five years and therefore was

not at the bargaining table prior to 1995. Mr. Carlsen testified

that he has reviewed the Employer's bargaining notes for the

period between 1985 and 1995, and those notes reflect that the

parties have utilized as comparable jurisdictions a number of

counties in Washington, Oregon, and California, including the

five counties advanced by the Union here, but the parties did not

focus on only those five counties. The Union offered no rebuttal

testimony.

      Thus, Detective Blashill's testimony that Pierce, Snohomish,

Clark, Washington, and Marion Counties have been used as

comparable jurisdictions during past collective bargaining is

countered by Mr. Carlsen's testimony that other jurisdictions

were utilized as comparators as well. The record presented to

the Arbitration Panel does not support a finding that the parties

have a long standing practice of an exclusive list of five

comparable jurisdictions.

      Absent such evidence, there is no reason to exclude Kitsap

and Yakima Counties from the list. Both fall within the

population band which the parties agree is appropriate for

comparison with Spokane County. Marion and Washington Counties

will not be considered. While both fall within the relevant

population band, so do three other Oregon counties. Two of those

other Oregon counties, Clackamus and Lane, are significantly

closer in population to Spokane County, than is Marion County.

No evidence regarding the wages provided by those three excluded

Oregon counties was provided to the Arbitration Panel. In

interest arbitrations involving Washington jurisdictions,

arbitrators have generally been reluctant to utilize out-of-state

jurisdictions as comparators, particularly where there are a

sufficient number of in-state jurisdictions which may reasonably

be utilized. The situation involving Spokane County is a close

question in this regard. As one of the largest counties in the

state, there are relatively few in this state that compare in

size. The population band utilized by the parties, while wide in

scope, provides only five in-state comparators. This is a bare

minimum for comparison, and it can reasonably be argued that it

could be appropriate to reach out-of-state to select two more.

It must be kept in mind that the statute permits the selection of

comparable jurisdictions on the west coast, and does not confine

selection to Washington. Nevertheless here, there is

insufficient reason to select the two counties in Oregon advanced

by the Union, while excluding others. In these circumstances,

since there is a marginally adequate number of Washington

jurisdictions which may be utilized for comparison purposes, the

list of comparators will be confined to that state.

      Benton County is not a "like employer of similar size" when

compared with Spokane County. The population of Spokane County

is three times that of Benton County. The size of their

respective sheriff's departments are even more disparate in size,

with the Spokane County Sheriff's Department employing about five

times more employees than its Benton County counterpart. I agree

with the Employer that it is important to utilize as many other

eastern Washington jurisdictions as possible for comparison with

Spokane County. However, in order to be a primary comparator

according to RCW 41.56.465(l)(c)(i), the jurisdiction must be of

"similar size" to the subject jurisdiction. Benton County and

Spokane County are simply not of similar size.1

 

1     It is recognized that another arbitrator has held, in the context of a different union and bargaining unit but the

same employer, that Benton County is an appropriate jurisdiction to compare with Spokane County. The Union

here was not a party to that proceeding and should not be bound by its results. Based on the evidence presented in

the instant case, Benton County is not comparable to Spokane County according to the criteria set forth in the

statute.

_____

 

POSITION OF THE UNION ON WAGES

      The Union argues that its request for an across-the-board

wage increase of 6% for 1997, 5% for 1998, and 5% for 1999 is

justified when compared with the wages of the comparable

jurisdictions. The Union asserts that its wage proposals are

also justified by the increased responsibilities of the employees

because of increased calls for service and new programs which the

Employer has implemented. In addition, the Union asserts that

acceptance of its wage requests is needed so that employees would

receive a competitive wage, morale would be boosted, and the

exodus of experienced officers would be prevented. The Union

argues that as a result of the Employer's "scorched-earth

negotiating tactics" it has received no wage increase since 1996,

and it has fallen 16% behind the wages paid by the jurisdictions

which it alleges are comparable. Moreover those employers

provide their deputies with cars. The Union urges that the same

percentage increase be applied to all ranks. According to the

Union, there is not a single interest arbitration award which

splits the ranks in the manner urged by the Employer. The Union

asserts that the sergeants are paid appropriately because they

perform duties ordinarily associated with lieutenants in other

departments. According to the Union, the Employer's detectives

and sergeants have had their responsibilities increased, and the

same responsibilities were not given to similar ranks in

comparable departments. The Union observes that the current wage

differentials for detectives and sergeants are needed in order to

attract qualified applicants. Finally, the Union points out that

the Employer maintains a 42% wage differential between its jail

sergeants and its top-step corrections officers.

 

POSITION OF THE EMPLOYER ON WAGES

      The Employer contends that if its 3.1% wage proposal for

1997 is adopted and longevity and education pay are considered,

the wages that its deputies receive are within the zone of

reasonableness in comparison with the wages for that year paid by

the counties which it alleges are comparables. It asserts that

the wage levels are either slightly above or slightly below the

average, depending upon the seniority and education level that is

used for comparison. It argues that with relative differences in

the cost of living factored in, it is clear that the evidence

from the comparables does not warrant any sort of catch up wage

increase. The Employer requests consideration of the relatively

higher cost of living in Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark counties

which are part of large metropolitan areas. With this in mind

and all else being equal, the Employer reasons, one would expect

to find the wages of the Spokane deputies below the average of

the comparables. The Employer justifies its offer of a lump sum

of $500 to detectives and sergeants for 1997 based upon a

comparison with the wages paid by the comparable jurisdictions to

these ranks. The Employer asserts that the differential in pay

between top step deputies and both detectives and sergeants is

much higher for its employees than for those of the comparables.

The Employer suggests that this is a good time to close the gap.

The Employer maintains that it would be easier for detectives and

sergeants to accept a wage freeze for 1997, since that year has

passed, and all employees will be receiving a lump sum amount to

compensate them for back pay. The Employer proposes that the

second and third year wage increases for all ranks be 100% of the

Seattle CPI-W, which works out to 3.7% and 2.5% for 1998 and

1999. According to the Employer, its proposals for these years

is right at the average of increases for these years which were

provided by the comparable employers. The Employer asserts that

its proposed wage increases are in line with the increases

awarded in the most recent interest arbitration awards in this

state, while the Union's proposed increases are much higher than

any recent arbitration award. The Employer claims further

support of its proposal by the factor of internal equity. In

this regard, it points out that in 1997, most County employees

took a wage freeze, and in 1998 and 1999 most County bargaining

units settled for a 2% increase. The Employer asserts that its

proposed increase for this unit, if adopted, would be higher than

any other group. The Employer observes that the statute requires

consideration of changes in consumer prices. It asserts that its

offer for 1998 and 1999 of 100% of the increase in the Seattle

area consumer price index ensures that the deputies will have

out-paced inflation for the entire decade. While recognizing

that Spokane city police are paid more than the County deputies,

the Employer observes that this is typical of the wage

relationship between comparable counties and the largest city

within each of those counties. The Employer further observes

that no deputy has left the Employer in order to take a job with

the City of Spokane for the past six years. Regarding the

Union's evidence of increased productivity, the Employer states

that there is no reason to believe that service calls are not

going up everywhere, including in the comparable jurisdictions.

 

WAGE COMPARISONS WITH COMPARABLE JURISDICTIONS

      Listed below are the monthly top step base wages paid by the

comparable jurisdictions in 1997:

___________________________________________________________________

Deputies

                                    1997                With 10           With 20           B.A. With

                                    Base Pay        Years              Years 10         Years

                                                            Longevity       Longevity       Longevity

 

Clark County              3,684               4,052               4,052               4,052

Kitsap                         3,685               3,740               3,777               3,740

County

Pierce                          3,892               3,892               3,892               3,892

County

Snohomish                  3,741               3,872               4,078               4,003

County

Yakima                       3,519               3,589               3,660               3,589

County

 

Average-1997             3,704               3,829               3,892               3,855

Spokane                      3,481               3,603               3,794               3,725

County

1996 Wages

Difference                  -6.4%              -6.3%              -2.6%              -3.5%

 

 

                                 Detective/Corporal Sergeant

                                 1997 Base Pay        1997 Base Pay

Clark County           Not Applicable        4,269

Kitsap County         3,805                        4,218

Pierce County          4,164                        4,475

Snohomish County  3,853                        4,334

Yakima County       Not Applicable        3,955

 

Average-1997          3,941                        4,250

 

Spokane County      3,934                        4,424

1996 Wages

Difference               -0.2%                       +4.1%

___________________________________________________________________

      Each of the comparable jurisdictions permit their officers

to commute to work in their county vehicles. While some Spokane

County officers have this privilege, most do not. There is a

monetary value to this commuting privilege, though the precise

amount is not evident from the record.2

2     The Union presented evidence regarding the monetary value of a car which may be used for any purpose. That

situation does not apply here.

_____

      The percentage differentials between deputies and detectives

or corporals and between deputies and sergeants are reflected

below:

___________________________________________________________________

                                          Detective or                                Sergeant

                                          Corporal

Clark County                    Not Applicable                            15.9%

Kitsap County                  $120 (3.3% in 1997)                   14.5%

Pierce County                   7%                                               15%

Snohomish County           3%                                               15.9%

Yakima County                Not Applicable                            12.4%

Average                            4.4%                                            14.7%

Spokane County               13%                                             27.1%

___________________________________________________________________

      Detective Blashill testified that the Employer advances

deputies to the position of detective on the basis of civil

service tests, while most of the comparable jurisdictions merely

appoint their detectives. He testified that during collective

bargaining negotiations about 12 years ago, sergeants received an

extra 2% pay increase because it was recognized that they were

often the senior officer on duty at which times they were

performing work of a higher rank. The evidence presented fails

to establish that the duties of the Employer's detectives and

sergeants are significantly different from the duties performed

by similar ranks in the comparable jurisdictions.

      The percentage wage increases which the comparable

jurisdictions provided to their uniformed sheriff's department

employees for the years 1997, 1998, and 1999 are set forth below:

___________________________________________________________________

                                       1997                                  1998                                     1999

Clark County                 4%                                    2.5%                                    3%

Kitsap County               4%                                    3.5%                                    3.5%

 

Pierce County                3%                                    Jan. 1 - 2%                          3%

                                                                                 July 1 - 2%

 

Snohomish                     April 1 - 2.61%                 April 1 - 3.33%                    2.25%

County                           July 1 - 1.25

 

Yakima County             2.75%                               4%                                       3%

___________________________________________________________________

 

COST OF LIVING

      RCW 41.56.465(1)(d) requires consideration of "[t]he average

consumer prices for goods and services, commonly known as the

cost of living." The Employer provided data on the change in the

CPI-W Seattle and the CPI-W All U.S. Cities. These consumer

price indexes are published by the United States Department of

Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. They reflect the following

annual increases in the cost of living:

___________________________________________________________________

Year Ending                CPI-W Seattle               CPI-W All Cities

July 1996                    2.9%                              2.9%

July 1997                    3.7%                              2.1%

July 1998                    2.5%                              1.5%

___________________________________________________________________

      The Employer contends that the Panel, when comparing wages,

should take into account the higher cost of living that exists on

the west side of the state, where three of the comparables are

situated in metropolitan areas: Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark.

Detective Blashill conceded that the cost of living is generally

higher in Seattle than it is in Spokane. The Employer provided

comparative data on the cost of living generally in various

Washington localities, the cost of housing, average net earnings

per worker, and other published indicators that confirm the

obvious fact that the Seattle metropolitan area is a higher cost

area than is Spokane. This difference in the cost of living

should be considered when comparing the wages of the Employer

with that of comparables in the larger metropolitan areas,

particularly the Seattle metropolitan area.

 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

      In addition to the specific criteria set forth in RCW

41.56.465(a)-(e), RCW 41.56.465(f) directs the Panel to consider

"such other factors. . that are normally or traditionally taken

into consideration in the determination of wages, hours, and

conditions of employment." Such factors, which are discussed

below, have been considered, but generally with lesser weight

than that which is given to the specifically enumerated criteria

of comparability and cost of living.

 

      Ability to Pay

      A factor frequently raised in contract negotiations and also

considered by arbitrators is the ability of the employer to pay

wage and benefit increases. The Employer does not contend that

it is unable to pay a fair and reasonable pay increase. However,

it does point out that its ability to raise property taxes is

limited, by state law, to increases in the implicit price

deflator, an economic index published by the U.S. Department of

Labor. That index increased by 1.9% in 1997 and, according to

the Employer, is projected to increase at an even lower rate in

1998. Nevertheless, Mr. Carlsen conceded that he heard that the

Employer has a budget surplus. A recent newspaper article

submitted into evidence by the Union, without objection, quoted a

Spokane County commissioner as saying that the Employer had $12

million in the bank. It appears that the Employer can afford

some reasonable compensation increase for its employees.

 

      Settlements With Other Bargaining Units

      From the standpoint of both the Employer and the Union, the

settlements reached by the Employer with other bargaining units

are significant. While those settlements are affected by the

particular situation of each individual bargaining unit, still

there is an understandable desire by the Employer to achieve

consistency. From the Union's standpoint it wants to do at

least as well for its membership as the other unions have already

done. At the bargaining table, the settlements reached by the

Employer with other unions are likely to be brought up by one

side or the other. Thus, it is a factor which should be

considered by the Panel.

      The Employer has reached agreement with all of its other

bargaining units for 1997 and 1998. Only the corrections

employees have not as yet reached a settlement for 1999. The

bargaining unit of Sheriff's Department lieutenants and captains

first became entitled to interest arbitration some time during

1997. That bargaining unit received no wage increase in 1997, a

2% increase in September 1998, and another 2% increase in 1999.

The corrections employees and supervisors, who are also subject

to interest arbitration, settled in 1997 for a 1.5% increase on

January 1 and another 1.5% increase on July 1. They agreed to

the same wage increases in 1998. Their wages for 1999 have not

yet been established. The various other bargaining units, as

well as the Employer's non-represented employees,all received a

wage freeze in 1997, and 2% increases in 1998 and 1999.

 

      Turnover

      Detective Steven Barbieri testified that the Employer's swat

team was devastated in 1993 when four of its members resigned and

were then employed by the City of Spokane's Police Department.

Corporal Raymond Harding of the Spokane Police Department

testified that he resigned from the Sheriff's Department in 1993

because of better pay and benefits offered by the Spokane Police

Department. Sergeant Jeffrey Tower testified that in 1993 or

1994, two trainees who were attending the training academy also

resigned in order to accept employment with the City Police

Department.

      Deputy Brian Miller testified that Sheriff's Department

employees and Spokane Police Department employees work in the

same building, perform similar duties, and often work together.

Detectives James Dresback and Rick Grabenstein each testified

that City and County officers work together on a regional task

force. In 1997, the top step base wage for a City of Spokane

police officer was 7.3% higher than the 1996 wage still received

by the Employer's top step deputies. The Employer points out

that considering the cost of the County's superior education

incentive/longevity program, the overall difference narrows by

2%, and will be narrowed even further when the Sheriff's

Department employees receive their 1997 pay increase.

Nevertheless, the Employer concedes that police officers in the

City of Spokane do receive somewhat higher pay. However, the

Employer points out that in this regard, its employees are still

better off in comparison to the situation of their brethren in

each of the comparable jurisdictions. When top step deputy

sheriff wages within each of the comparable counties are compared

with top step police officer wages in the largest city within

each of those counties, the city police officers always receive

more pay, with the differences reflected below:

___________________________________________________________________

County - City                                                  Difference

      Clark - Vancouver                                   8.4%

      Kitsap - Bremerton                                  6.9%

      Pierce - Tacoma                                       3.6%

      Snohomish - Everett                                11.4%

      Yakima - Yakima                                     6.3%

___________________________________________________________________

The Employer also points out that no deputy has resigned to take

a job with the City of Spokane for the past six years. City of

Spokane police officers received wage increases of 2.61% and

3.47% in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Their 1999 contract is

currently being negotiated. City of Spokane police lieutenants

and captains received wage increases of 3.33% and 2% in 1998 and

1999.

 

AWARD OF WAGES

      Weighing the various factors, a wage increase of 3.5% will

be awarded to deputies and detectives retroactive to January 1,

1997. Sergeants will receive a wage increase of 2.5% retroactive

to January 1, 1997. For 1998, all ranks will receive an increase

of 3.7%. For 1999, all ranks will receive an increase of 3%.

      These increases will result in deputies with B.A. degrees

receiving wages which approximate the average wage paid to

employees with such credentials by the comparable jurisdictions.

Deputies who do not receive the B.A. premium will receive a few

percentage points less than the average of their counterparts

among the comparables unless they have very lengthy seniority, in

which case they would compare favorably with their counterparts.

The wage increases awarded during the three year period generally

approximate the average wage increases provided during these

years by the comparable jurisdictions. The wage increases

awarded will result in detectives and sergeants maintaining

higher wages than the average of their counterparts in the

comparable jurisdictions. Moreover, the awarded wage increases

will continue the employees' wage advantages at all ranks in

relation to the only other eastern Washington comparable

jurisdiction, Yakima County. Considering the Employer's

favorable education and longevity premiums and wage differential

between ranks, as well as the recognized lower cost of living in

Spokane County compared with some of the western Washington

comparable counties, the wages provided to this bargaining unit,

overall and with the awarded increases, will not be out of line

with the comparable jurisdictions. Recognizing the increased

productivity of the bargaining unit and the Employer's ability to

pay, the percentage wage increases for the three year period are

for the most part higher than the increase in the cost of living.

Even if the cost of living index for Seattle is used, which has

been rising at a faster pace than the all-cities index, the

sergeants, with their lower awarded increase in the first year,

still will receive a wage increase which approximates the

inflation rate. Moreover, the wage increases over the three year

period for all bargaining unit employees, including the

sergeants, will compare favorably with other of the County's

employee groups. The increases awarded are likely sufficient to

attract new personnel and to prevent the loss of employees to

other departments and to the Spokane Police Department in

particular. These percentage wage increases are generally a

little higher than those provided by the City of Spokane during

the corresponding years.

      It is appropriate to provide different percentage wage

increases for different ranks, where circumstances, considered in

context of the statutory criteria, justify such differences. One

would assume that the Union would be seeking an additional pay

increase for higher ranks if the wage differential between ranks

was unreasonably low in comparison with like employers. In a

recent interest arbitration decision authored by this Neutral

Chairman and referenced by the Employer, both parties involved in

that proceeding agreed that the higher ranks were entitled to a

wage increase over and above the rank and file increase. They

recognized that the wages provided to those ranks were inadequate

in comparison with the ranks they supervised, and also in

comparison with their counterparts in the comparable

jurisdictions. City of Kennewick and IAFF Local 1296, AAA No. 75

300 0025 96 (1997). Even here, the parties have in the past

negotiated percentage wage increases for sergeants which were

different from that received by deputies. The wages received by

the Employer's sergeants are high in relation to that provided by

the comparable jurisdictions, and the wage differential between

deputies and sergeants in Spokane County is particularly high in

such a comparison. The evidence presented fails to establish any

unique characteristics of the Employer's sergeants which would

require more favorable treatment than the comparables.

Therefore, while a cost of living increase is appropriate for the

sergeants given the specified statutory criteria of "cost of

living" as well as the implied criteria of productivity and

ability to pay, any additional increase is not warranted in view

of the criteria of comparability and internal equity.3 However,

the statutory criteria do not provide sufficient justification

for treating detectives differently than deputies. Detectives'

wages are more in line with the situation of the comparable

employers than are the sergeants'.

3     The large wage differential between the County's corrections officers and corrections sergeants is not significant

because the evidence presented does not indicate whether or not those positions are in any way similar in duties or

responsibilities to the positions at issue here. However, it is significant that the percentage wage increases awarded

to the Sheriff's Department sergeants compare favorably with those received by other bargaining units employed by

the County.

_____

      In sum, the awarded wage levels are appropriate considering

the wages paid by the comparable jurisdictions, the cost of

living, and other factors normally taken into consideration in

the determination of wages, such as turnover, productivity, the

wages increases provided by the County to other employee groups,

and the wages paid by other local employers to similar types of

employees. The base wage increases awarded are as follows:

 

Effective January 1, 1997                            3.5% for deputies and detectives

                                                                       2.5% for sergeants

Effective January 1, 1998                            3.7% for all ranks

Effective January 1, 1999                            3.0% for all ranks.

 

Redmond, Washington

Dated: July 12, 1999                                      /s/ALAN R. KREBS

                                                                        Alan R. Krebs, Neutral Chairman