PHOENIX - Imposing a contract on one of its employee unions for the first time, Phoenix has approved pay cuts for police officers and other city workers to avoid reductions in services provided residents in the face of a budget deficit.
The City Council voted 5-4 Wednesday night to impose a new contract on the city's 2,386 police officers, whose union had balked at accepting cuts to pay and benefits of 2.5 percent over two years.
The council separately approved contracts that four other unions representing other city workers, including firefighters, had accepted.
"We're asking employees to reduce compensation a little to preserve jobs and services," City Manager Ed Zuercher said, adding that the city already pays officers more because of their dangerous work.
Police said they should be treated differently from other city workers because officers' jobs require deeper sacrifices, including giving their lives in the line of duty.
"We have given enough," said Joe McClure, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.
Council member Thelda Williams said council members had to make a difficult choice regarding police officers' pay.
"We recognize how important they are to this community and what a tough job they have, and they receive pay accordingly. But I think if we really want to beef up security and public safety, we need new officers -- and that takes money," she said. "We can't do both. We have to make a choice."
The city faced a $37.7 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1, largely because revenue has fallen short of city officials' projections.
Fire union President Pete Gorraiz said his 1,512 members don't like the contract, but he backed it to prevent severe reductions in services to residents.
"We weren't willing to cut everyone else so we could get a raise," Gorraiz said. "Nobody wants to take cuts, but we understand the fiscal realities."
In his draft budget, Zuercher warned that without employee concessions or tax increases, the city would have to close pools, senior centers and other popular programs.