Both sides are ratcheting up their appeals as the negotiations between the San Antonio Police Officers Association and the City of San Antonio over the fate of the officer's health plans reaches a critical phase.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley says if the SAPOA and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association don't agree to give up their 'no premium, no deductable' health insurance packages and accept the civilian health insurance benefit, which includes a hefty copays and deductibles, she will unilaterally make the change, a move which is certain to result in a lawsuit.
In a letter to media executives over the weekend, Sculley wrote "When you combine above-average pay with rich benefits, the result is a City of San Antonio workforce where more than 400 of the 500 highest-compensated employees are uniformed public safety personnel, less than half of whom live in the City of San Antonio.
Sculley says the current situation is unsustainable.
"This imbalance is crowding out other priority services that the City is expected to provide, if we are to build, maintain, and operate the streets, sidewalks, parks, libraries, senior centers, and other services that taxpayers want," Sculley wrote. "According to the recent 2014 community-wide survey of over 1,000 City of San Antonio residents across all 10 City Council districts, 70% support public safety personnel contributing to healthcare benefits like other city employees."
Sculley warns that a 'ten year evergreen clause,' which was written into the Police and Fire contracts, allow the current contracts to continue in force for a decade even if no negotiations talk place. "The city believes this is unconstitutional and bad public policy," Sculley writes. "No other city in Texas has a ten year perpetual contract."
Sculley said she will place in the 2015 a city budget 'meeting the unions halfway,' by splitting the difference in what the City currently spends on uniformed healthcare and civilian health care.
"If approved by Council, the City would budget $10,000 per uniformed employee for health care, and police officers and firefighters would be required to contribute to the cost of their own health care, just as most people do."
But the Police are playing hardball too.
In a video e-mailed to Newsradio 1200 WOAI, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas has produced a hard hitting video featuring Police Officer Jolanda Sanchez, who says that being a police officer is dangerous, and she tells the story of an officer who was pinned down in a recent shooting.
CLEAT has expressed concern that if San Antonio Police agree to cuts in health benefits, other cities in Texas will demand the same. CLEAT and the San Antonio Police Officers Association is threatening to campaign against any member of City Council who supposed Sculley's 'split the difference' compromise.