ORLANDO, FL – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s administration wants a pound of flesh from more than 50 police and fire department administrators.
Last year, to avoid layoffs and other cuts, Dyer asked city workers to give up voluntarily pay raises guaranteed in their union contracts. Nearly all of the city’s 3,000 employees agreed, except for two groups: district fire chiefs and police lieutenants.
Those supervisors refused on principle, arguing that city officials had a responsibility to stick to an agreement they signed just a year before. Dyer was forced to give the 51 public safety administrators 3 percent raises, even as all of their co-workers had their wages frozen.
Now, with their union contracts about to expire, those chiefs and lieutenants have to negotiate new deals. And city officials haven’t forgotten.
Dyer’s labor negotiator wants to take back the raises, along with the money the workers received from the raises over the past year. That would take their pay back in time a year, putting them even with every other city employee.
But the city wants to go further. While other city employees — the ones who went along with the mayor’s plan last year — are due a 3 percent raise next year, the Dyer administration has offered the fire and police supervisors less, perhaps 1.5 percent or a reduction in other benefits; negotiations are ongoing.
Chief labor negotiator David Rafanowicz said making the public safety workers give up more is simply the administration’s way of showing there’s a “consequence” for not going along with the mayor and the city’s other union employees.
“The other bargaining units in the city chose to give up their pay raise. Everybody else did their fair share,” Rafanowicz said. “We’re just looking for equal sacrifice.”
Union leaders call it punishment. The public safety workers may be willing to give up their raises and earnings, but to go deeper seems like retaliation, they say.
“The district chiefs’ position is that they will give it all back, but they don’t feel they deserve to be punished for sticking with a contract the city approved,” fire union president Steve Clelland said. “But the city wants additional punitive measures. They want to send a message.”
Jeff Williams, past president of the police union, called the city’s position “immature.”
“The lieutenants aren’t looking to hurt the citizens or the city budget,” Williams said. “They’re not looking for anything more — they just want to hold onto what they have.”
It’s not about the money. After several years of cuts, the Dyer administration says the city’s finances are stable. The wages are a relatively small amount.
But both sides of the negotiating table face something of a credibility problem if the small group of administrators comes away unscathed. With no ill effects, union leaders would look bad for advising their other members to give up their raises last year.
And Dyer would have a tougher time convincing other city employees to accept similar deals in the future.
Dyer said it’s a matter of fairness.
“In bargaining with the two units that did not go along with the majority of our employees, I want to make sure we’re fair to employees who agreed to give up cost-of-living increases,” he said.
The police and fire unions negotiate separate contracts, and neither one has reached a deal yet. If talks break down, contract issues will go before an independent special master and ultimately be decided by the City Council.
From The Orlando Sentinel