A longstanding dispute between the Fraternal Order of Police and the city of Gainesville will now be decided by a state agency.
The organization representing sworn law enforcement officers filed a charge of unfair labor practices after the city commission passed a motion in September that alters the work hours of Gainesville’s police force.
While there have been several issues causing conflict between the police and the city, the Public Employees Relations Commission will be examining the city’s proposal that enables the chief of police to change officers’ workdays according to operational needs. The proposed changes by the city would alter the standard work week for patrol from 11.25 hour shifts to 8, 10 or 12 hour shifts, per the police chief’s judgment.
The Fraternal Order of Police has argued that “hours of work” is a negotiable issue, which means both parties must come to an agreement. The FOP maintains the city commission wiped out the right to bargain when they passed a motion, 4-3, to change the hours of work.
Matt Goeckel, spokesman for the FOP, said the police are becoming disheartened by the city’s positions on work hours and wages.
“We’re bleeding officers and our benefits package is not attractive,” Goeckel said. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for the city to finally wake up and change something.”
The FOP filed its charge of unfair labor practices earlier this month, and the Public Employees Relations Commission agreed on the 20th that the charge had merit. The Public Employees Relations Commission consists of three members appointed by the governor. The commission has not yet announced when they will rule on the issue.
Chip Skinner, spokesman for the city of Gainesville, said the city remains confident in its decision-making.
“We’re looking forward to a resolution with the state-appointed person that will be listening to the hearing and both sides of the issue,” Skinner said. “We feel that we have acted appropriately and within the confines of the law.”
Many officers are uncomfortable with the idea of having their schedules changed abruptly. Goeckel argued that without improvements and stability, many officers will seek employment in other agencies or other professions entirely.
“Saving money is a big thing to them, but I think the city forgets that their core services are the things that they’re supposed to spend on first,” Goeckel said.