JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An ongoing dispute between the city of Jacksonville and its police officers represented by the Fraternal Order of Police over pay, pension contributions and health care costs has prompted a formal complaint by the union of unfair labor practice.
Contract talks between the city and the FOP have been an impasse for months. The city is asking officers to take a 2 percent pay cut and contribute to their pension funds and health care benefits. The union has repeatedly refused to accept those terms.
The complaint filed Friday claims that Sheriff John Rutherford called meetings on Thursday and "admonished the officers that they needed to take the 2 percent pay cut offered by the city or he would lay off fellow officers, and 'it might even be worse.'"
"All it's done is upset the officers even more," FOP President Nelson Cuba said. "Now it's going to make it even harder to get a deal done because they are even more upset that the sheriff would threaten them the way he did in reference to the 2 percent."
Video:Document:Read The FOP Complaint
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released this statement Friday afternoon:
"Sheriff Rutherford does not believe his discussion of the budget crisis and proposed salary reduction during his routine roll call address to the troops constitutes an unfair labor practice, as alleged by the police union president."
Jacksonville's City Council's finance committee has voted to cut the Sheriff's Office budget by $4.4 million. Rutherford has said that would require the layoffs of 52 positions -- some of them police officers.
Cuba, however, said he believes the city has the money.
"We have always said that if the city can show us where there is a gap in the budget and they need these dollars, we are willing to do our part," Cuba said.
In January, the FOP rejected a three-year contract offer by the city, and both sides agreed that a special master would be needed to hammer out a new contract for police officers.
Mayor Alvin Brown said he's not concerned about possible police layoffs.
"I think the sheriff runs that department and he has the ability to streamline it where you don't lay off police and fire," Brown said. "Maybe he can work with the rank-and-file civilian employees. So he knows how to deal with that. I have every confident that he'll do what's necessary for us to live within our means."
The FOP labor complaint was filed Friday with the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission in Tallahassee. Both sides have filed previous complaints with the labor board that have been dismissed.