Deadlocked negotiations between Modesto City Hall and the Modesto Police Officers Association could result in as many as 14 law enforcement layoffs if the two sides can't reach a deal by June 30.
Both have talked tough for weeks, publicly painting themselves into positions that appear to leave little room for compromise.
The union portrays the City Council as unconcerned with public safety; elected leaders call the bargaining unit unreasonable for insisting on raises in the midst of a historic recession.
Without those raises, the union wouldn't face a layoff threat this month.
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"The police want to pad their pockets, so they'll lose nine officers," Mayor Jim Ridenour said.
The schism is set to come to a head Tuesday when the City Council considers a union proposal to prevent layoffs and $4.8 million in new budget cuts Ridenour drafted with City Manager Greg Nyhoff.
The council has to plug the gap by July 1, when its new financial year begins. That's a tight deadline for the city's labor negotiations.
The latest spending reductions appear heavy on law enforcement because the city has reached tentative agreements to prevent layoffs with unions that represent firefighters, midlevel managers, blue-collar employees and low-level administrative employees.
The Modesto City Firefighters Association, for example, could save $745,000 by restructuring its contract to delay its raises. Other unions are being asked to take 96 hours of furlough time, reducing their wages by nearly 5 percent.
By contrast, the MPOA has not agreed to open its contract unless it gets a no-layoff guarantee.
Ridenour and other council members are unwilling to make that promise because of the city's continually sliding revenue projections.
"We're not at the bottom yet," said Councilman Brad Hawn, who is especially concerned about efforts the state might take to borrow cash from cities and counties to balance its budget. "I can't see us being able to have a hands-off provision for any bargaining."
If the MPOA, Modesto Police Management Association and Modesto Police Non-Sworn Association do not agree to labor concessions, the city would:
Lay off nine MPOA members, filling in front-line patrol officers with officers from special units.
Demote a police lieutenant and a police sergeant to the rank of officer and lay off two more officers.
Lay off two police clerks and one community services officer.
The police management association represents lieutenants and sergeants. It does not have a contract. The nonsworn association represents a mix of police employees, such as clerks and community service officers.
Both of those unions have described their contract talks as productive, though they do not have deals to present to their members.
"Our talks are ongoing, and based on today, things are going really well," said Lt. Ron Cloward, the police management association's vice chairman. He was in a bargaining session Friday.
MPOA President Tony Arguelles declined to comment on Ridenour's proposal because he had not seen it Friday. The union Thursday told the city it wants to keep its raises but would accept 96 hours of furlough time as long it gets a no-layoff pledge. The union said the furloughs would give the city the $820,000 in concessions it is seeking.
The council is scheduled to discuss that proposal in a closed-door meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The council's Finance Committee is expected to meet at 9 a.m. in the council chamber at Tenth Street Place to weigh the mayor's recommended budget cuts.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.