Memphis Airport Police Get 5.25% Raise

April 23, 2007
Airport police officers currently earn about $48,500 a year. The average Memphis city police officer earns $48,670.

Police at the airport will get a raise this year, but it won't be the 5 percent they say they deserve for sacrificing in lean times.

They also won't get a chance to reopen talks next spring, as they hoped, to take advantage of an improving airline climate.

Instead, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board of commissioners Thursday approved a raise of 5.25 percent over two years, settling the police union's first collective bargaining impasse in airport history.

Besides the raises, paid in 1 and 2 percent increments over the term of the contract that expires in 2009, police employees will also receive 1 percent of their salaries in a lump sum payment next summer.

The contract covers about 70 officers, communications operators and the traffic monitors who manage motor and pedestrian traffic in front of the terminal.

Airport police officers currently earn about $48,500 a year. The average Memphis city police officer earns $48,670.

When the last of three raises goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009, airport officers will earn $51,118.

Commissioners, under the impression the airport paid officers better than the city, said they wanted to maintain that edge to attract stronger officer candidates.

But Commissioner Jon Thompson said he was bothered that the group would come to the board "when the industry is troubled with bankruptcy and want to extract even more dollars."

"I'm troubled by that," he said.

The Memphis Airport Police Association wanted a one-year contract and 5 percent raise to compensate for sacrifices members made to help the airport through revenue shortfalls it has experienced since 2001.

Law enforcement workers at the airport received a 2 percent raise in 2004 and 2005 after forfeiting a 4 percent raise in 2002. That no-raise contract was extended through 2003 as a way to help the airport grapple revenue losses from the ailing airline industry.

No employee group at the airport received raises last year. All workers also agreed to reduced sick leave and forfeited bonus days earned for perfect attendance.

But MAPA, in the three-year contract it negotiated in 2006, reserved the right to reopen talks in 2007 and 2008.

"We should have the opportunity to reap the benefits because when the bottom fell out, we negotiated down," said Barry Wilburn, MAPA vice president. "We wanted the flexibility to see how things will change with the airlines coming out bankruptcy and with Frontier starting up. We want to be part of the growing process."

Thompson said that allowing the group to reopen talks on top of a 5 percent raise was "wanting cake and eating it too."

"It would have been wiser to come forward with a three or four percent raise and the reopening," he said. "This is almost too much to bear. You want too much at one time."

Other commissioners said the open-contract would make budgeting too difficult for the airport authority, grappling with reduced passengers.

In March, passenger counts were down 5.6 percent, largely because many of the mainline jets serving this market have have been replaced by 50-seat regional jets.

For the year so far, passenger numbers are down 4.2 percent.

Airport revenue for March was actually up $1.3 million, due in part to a 6 percent increase in cargo tonnage.

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