Mayor Todd Gloria. Photo by Chris Stone

 San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria Friday has announced that he has reached tentative agreements with labor unions representing the city’s police officers and firefighters.

On July 1, all San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA) members will receive a 3.2% raise, while the San Diego City Firefighters Local 145 members will receive a 2.5% raise, according to a news release from Gloria’s office.

The tentative agreements with the SDPOA and Local 145 will still need City Council approval. Gloria said the agreements “will help us attract and retain top-flight personnel, enhance public safety and support working families.”

“Our police officers and firefighters, like all our city employees, work incredibly hard every day to serve and protect San Diegans, and they should be compensated fairly and in a way that demonstrates our appreciation for what they do,” Gloria added.

On June 8, the council approved agreements with three other labor unions: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 127; the Deputy City Attorneys Association (DCAA); and the San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA).

Those unions will receive a 4% raise on July 1.

Agreements with the firefighters union, Local 127, MEA and DCAA also provide wage increases over the next two years, while the police union’s agreement is for one year. According to Gloria’s office, increased compensation will help address an existing 12.9% vacancy rate across city departments and service delays, including those on the city’s “Get It Done” mobile app.

A 2020 audit showed one major factor behind employee turnover was significant pay gaps, compared with other California jurisdictions. As one example, city of San Diego white-collar workers with five years of experience made 26% less than their counterparts in other cities, the audit found.

According to Gloria’s office, most city employees received modest salary increases in the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years after years of stagnant wages.

Passed in 2012, Proposition B mandated a five-year pay freeze and eliminated pensions for all new employees. City employees do not pay into Social Security, limiting benefits to a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

On June 8, the City Council approved the Mayor’s proposal to allow new employees hired after July 10, 2021 to join the city’s retirement system.

Gloria’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year includes employee compensation, along with a five-year plan to tackling a structural budget deficit.

Police Det. Jack Schaeffer, SDPOA president, said his union is pleased with the agreement.

“This is an important step,” Schaeffer said. “We do have to be competitive with the (other cities) around us.”

Schaeffer said that after 2006, when the city began experiencing serious financial problems, officers received no raises until 2018.

“Things were really tough,” said Schaeffer, saying that the number of San Diego officers dropped from 2,000 to under 1,800, but that it has since rebounded to more than 1,900 officers. “It was really simple for officers to go some place else,” he said. “We kind of corrected that, and you can see it by our numbers now.”

Capt. Jesse Conner, Local 145 president, also praised the deal, saying, “The firefighters are incredibly grateful to Mayor Gloria and we’re hopeful for the future.”

He added, “It’s the first meaningful step we’ve seen in 15 years.”

Conner said San Diego firefighters have experienced a slow decline in salaries, some 33% behind the industry standard in California.

He added that he believes the City Council will approve the salary increases. “It’s not a secret that city employees are underpaid, and I believe they’ll support the mayor or this initiative,” Conner said.

Updated at 4:14 p.m. June 25, 2021

–City News Service

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