FOP and City/Department Policies
Many members may wonder why the FOP asks to have input and/or negotiate changes to City and Department policies such as the new promotional process. I’m certain that members also ask if the Lodge has a right to negotiate policy changes or just items that are specifically mentioned in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (contract). I hope this article can answer those questions.
First I would say that as the Bargaining Agent for the sworn employees of the Tulsa Police Department, it is the FOP’s duty to ensure that all policies, procedures, and practices are fair and do not harm those we represent. That is one of the basic reasons that we have collective bargaining and why the state law, the Fire and Police Arbitration Act exists. We protect the rights of employees and work with management to accomplish that while moving the department forward and improving the service we provide to the citizens.
Second, our contract states that policies and practices become part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement every time a new one is signed by the City and the FOP. The section addressing this is referred to as the Prevailing Rights clause. It is located in the contract in Section 1.4 and states,
“Lodge and Employer hereby acknowledge that 11 O.S. 1991, Section 51- 111, as it may be legislatively or judicially amended, modified, interpreted, repealed or invalidated from time to time, asserts that “all rules, regulations, fiscal procedures, working conditions, departmental practices and manner of conducting operation and administration of ... police departments currently in effect on the effective date of any negotiated agreement shall be deemed a part of said agreement unless and except as modified or changed by the specific terms of such agreement.”
So let’s take the new promotional process. All aspects of police promotions are spelled out in City Policy. The FOP and the Department recognize that a new process is needed and many improvements can be made. The only way to make those changes officially is by amending the City policy. I don’t think anyone would disagree that changing the promotional process is a big change for our officers and will affect hundreds of people’s careers for many years to come. As the bargaining agent for all officers, the FOP has a vested interest in what the new process will look like. The FOP has a responsibility to ensure the process is fair and doesn’t favor any individuals or groups over others. The FOP also wants a rock solid process that will be free from challenges and grievances in the future. The best way to accomplish these things is by bargaining with management and agreeing on a process.
Besides the reasons stated above which are the most important, the policies became part of our contract when it was signed by both parties last year and every year before that according to Prevailing Rights. Also, the state board (Public Employees Relations Board) which rules on labor issues in Oklahoma has clearly determined that promotional process changes are a subject of bargaining and that Cities have a duty to negotiate such changes with the bargaining unit.
In my opinion, the reason these rules exist and the Prevailing Rights clause is in the contract is because at some time in the past, policies were implemented that were harmful to employees. This is much like the reasons many police policies exist...because someone did something that was bad for the department thus a new policy was created saying, “Don’t do that”. The process protects both sides from future disagreements and expensive court or arbitration battles.
Do we believe we have a right to bargain policy changes as the FOP? Yes. But do we also believe it is just the “right” thing to do for everyone including the City? Absolutely! Why not sit down and hammer out our differences on the front end rather that fighting it out later?
I hope this clears up many questions about why the FOP asks to talk with management about changes to policies, procedures, rules, regulations, and practices. It’s just the right thing to do and it is required by law and our contract.
Please contact me if you have any comments or questions.
FOP Board of Directors