OMAHA, NE – Omaha’s police union has filed a lawsuit against the City of Omaha, arguing that the city has improperly attempted to change its labor contract.
The complaint filed this week in Douglas County District Court is related to the contract that expired in December. The union says a clause in that contract states that if the city and the union had not agreed to changes — or to a new contract — by April, the old contract would remain in effect through the end of 2014.
The union argues that the city attempted to move forward with some changes, violating the contract.
Mayor Jean Stothert, in a press release, called the union’s position “frivolous,” because negotiations had already begun.
Stothert said the union and the city were exchanging offers as early as February. Those discussions were on a handful of topics, including rules about when officers can take home police vehicles and changes to the union’s deferred retirement program.
The union says the city also asked union members to consider chipping in an additional 1 percent to the pension system in 2014.
The current contract calls for union members to contribute 16.35 percent of their earnings in every pay period to the pension system. But when the contract expired at the end of 2013, that amount dropped to 15.35 percent, so union members are currently contributing at a lower rate.
According to the lawsuit, the union said it wasn’t ready to talk about pension contributions or the deferred retirement program, but would discuss the vehicle rules. Before that happened, the city drafted an agreement on the vehicle issue and said it would argue against the clause extending the expired contract.
The Mayor’s Office, however, has a different interpretation.
Stothert’s statement said the city responded to a union offer with terms the union disliked.
As a result, she said, “the union, rather than responding, manufactured this technical gotcha argument to avoid the potential consequences of good-faith negotiations.”
The suit comes as the city continues negotiations with its two major civilian unions, which have been operating under contracts that expired in 2012. The fire union’s contract expires at the end of this year.