State university police union wages fight with CSU on pay

Wage and benefit increases are at the center of ongoing disagreements between the Statewide University Police Association (SUPA) and the California State University Chancellor’s Office and have left negotiations at a standstill.

SUPA is demanding pay increases for CSU police officers to match those received by officers working for the UC system, which include automatic pay increases after one year of service and improved benefits.

The two groups declared at a March 28 meeting that they were at an impasse. SUPA then issued a news release accusing the CSU Chancellor’s Office of putting students in danger.

According to SUPA spokesperson Jeff Solomon, CSU police officers have been departing en masse for other agencies that offer better pay, leaving the number of officers available on campuses at dangerously low levels.

“We have officers working shifts without backup or proper equipment,” Solomon said. “They’re making less and working on their days off. If we don’t fix this within the next year, we’re going to lose officers.”

The Chancellor’s Office is responsible for negotiating with bargaining groups such as SUPA on salary and benefit adjustments where the budget allows. But it has no control over hiring or how campuses allocate the funds they have on hand, according to Michael Uhlenkamp, public affairs officer for the Chancellor’s Office.

“The bottom line is that staffing decisions are made at the campus level,” Uhlenkamp said. “We don’t have data that shows that cops are leaving in a mass exodus.”

The 2013-14 budget from Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to include an extra $125 million for CSUs, $38 million of which the Chancellor’s Office plans to set aside for pay increases. However, the office hasn’t determined who will receive them, Uhlenkamp said. The CSU system has been operating under a deficit since 2008 and has increased tuition and other fees to compensate. Only 10 CSU campuses were able to admit new students for Spring 2013 because of the cuts. Uhlenkamp said they don’t have the resources to offer what SUPA is demanding.

“Last year’s budget was $750 million less than we received the year before,” Uhlenkamp said. “We haven’t offered salary increases for any of our bargaining groups because there isn’t any money in the budget for it.”

Solomon argued that the issue goes beyond pay. He claims that while campus police officers operate as one agency, there is no standardization among campuses. Radios, equipment and uniforms vary from one campus to another, creating operational inefficiencies that could put officers who work at more than one campus in danger.

“The real problem is that you have 23 different campuses where each president wants to do things differently,” Solomon said. “We are one agency with 23 different budgets.”

The Chancellor’s Office has submitted budgets to the governor that included across-the-board pay increases every year for the past five years and got shot down every time, Uhlenkamp said.

The governor’s final budget for the CSUs is expected by July.