City, Unions Continue Discussions On Proposed Pay Cuts To Offset Budget Shortfall From COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — The head of the local Fraternal Order of Police said Tuesday morning that the organization wants more information before voting on whether to accept the city’s proposed 3% pay cut announced last week.

Later Tuesday, City Manager Brent Trout said discussions were ongoing between the city and unions regarding proposed salary reductions that were prompted by a substantial reduction in tax revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The city could be short between $6.5 million and $11 million in this year’s budget, which runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

The request for unions to take the pay cut came after Trout on Friday said salaries for management and executive staff for the city of Topeka were being cut by 3% as tax revenues were drastically reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trout said he also was asking the city’s union employees, who work under contract, to take a 3% cut, as well.

Both Topeka’s police and fire departments are represented by unions.

John Culver, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, says the organization “is reviewing the request made by the city manager that all union members agree to a 3% wage decrease.”

In a written statement Tuesday morning, the Fraternal Order of Police said that because of the “immense strain COVID-19 has placed upon law enforcement and the significant impact this wage cut would have on our members and their families, the FOP is requesting additional information and further clarification from the city manager.”

The statement added that it was “unfortunate that the city manager chose to place this demand on the unions without advanced notice, or even the opportunity to discuss the issue.”

The Fraternal Order of Police says it “remains committed to serving the citizens of Topeka and Shawnee County, while still protecting the rights and interest of its members.”

The local Fraternal Order of Police union also represents officers with the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office. At Monday morning’s Shawnee County Commission meeting, commissioner Kevin Cook announced that because of a reserve fund, county wages won’t need to be cut at this time.

Aaron Freeman, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 83, also provided a statement to 13 NEWS on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the statement, the IAFF also is evaluating the city manager’s request that all union members agree to a 3% wage cut.

“As this demand was placed on the union without advance notice,” the statement read, “we are in the process of gathering information to determine the best course of action. As first responders, IAFF Local #83 members have been on the frontlines battling the presence of COVID-19. We will continue to serve the citizens of Topeka while reviewing the city manager’s request.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, Trout said discussions began with unions on Friday, April 10, the same day of the proposed pay cuts.

In his statement, Trout said: “A media release issued on Friday April 10th announced 3% salary reductions to non-union employees including executive and management staff. This release also announced the beginning of discussions with union members on how to make 3% reductions to help offset a projected 7 million dollars in lost revenues due to the pandemic.

“The discussions with the unions began on April 10th. In those discussions, the city asked for the union to also accept a 3% salary reduction or to present alternatives to the 3% salary reductions by April 22nd.”

The release continued: “City Manager Trout will hear the responses and alternative suggestions from the union representatives and take them under consideration to make a decision on how to move forward.

“A three-pronged approach will be used to reduce expenses including the use of reserves, non-personnel and operational changes and personnel spending reductions. Non-personnel spending will be reduced or eliminated in areas such as education and dues, capital purchases in the general fund, demolition funding, office supplies, and other areas that are still being reviewed.”

The city of Topeka has just more than 1,100 employees, about 835 of whom are union members, said city spokeswoman Molly Hadfield.

Here are the unions that represent employees within the city:

— American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees: representing employees in water distribution, water meter services and in the water plant, including utility system workers and plant operators. This union also represents employees in Development Services including trade inspectors and plan reviewers.

— American Federation of Teachers: representing clerical, technical and professional employees. This includes court clerks, police records clerks, water customer service, fleet, forestry, engineering techs, fleet mechanics, electricians, plumbers, parking control officers, animal control officers, property maintenance inspectors and zoo keepers.

— Fraternal Order of Police: representing sworn police personnel.

— International Association of Firefighters: representing sworn fire personnel.

— Teamsters: representing employees in street maintenance.

— United Workers of Environmental Trades: representing employees in the water pollution control division including equipment operators, water treatment facility operators, electrical and instrumentation mechanics, maintenance mechanics, inspection and verification operators and bio-solids technicians.

From www.wibw.com