City of Jacksonville at impasse with police union

Collective bargaining over retirement benefits at standstill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The city of Jacksonville, saying the president of the Fraternal Order of Police refuses to engage in collective bargaining over retirement benefits, has declared an impasse with the union representing Jacksonville's police and corrections officers. This fight over pension reform could now head to court.

Last month, Mayor Alvin Brown unveiled his pension reform proposal for police employees in a collective bargaining meeting with the FOP. The plan is estimated to save $1.5 billion over 30 years, according to city officials.

The city said it will devote nearly 13 percent of its entire general fund budget for 2012-13 to the fund's pension obligations -- more than twice the amount that taxpayers spend to operate the Department of Public Works, according to the city.

The city and FOP successfully reached contracts on pay issues in January, but each contract contained a provision to be reopened on the issue of retirement benefits.

"This is unusual for this administration to take this type of stance when nobody before has ever done it," said FOP President, Nelson Cuba.

Cuba told Channel 4 Monday that the city declared the impasse because it didn't want to get the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund involved. Cuba said if anything should be at that negotiating table, the pension fund should be.

"Every mayor, every city council prior to this understood that," said Cuba. "Mayor Brown and this administration don't see it that way."

Mayor Brown and his administration have a different argument. In a letter written by the city's legal council the city said, "Given the rapid increase in City pension-related costs and the overall financial situation of the City, sustainable retirement reform is imperative and delay is not an option. The FOP has terminated retirement reform negotiations and referred any and all further negotiations to JPFPF (Jacksonville Police Fire Pension Fund), a non-employee organizations which is without authority for such negotiations under Florida law. As a result we have no choice but to declare impasse."

Whatever the reason for the impasse, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Recruiter and Officer, Ken Jefferson, said it is the men and women on the street who serve and protect the citizens of Jacksonville who are being dealt a disservice through all of the pension fights.

"You can't be the city and keep cutting deeper and deeper into a person's pension fund that they've been working for for 20 to 25 years," said Jefferson. "They need to have something to look forward to. It's just imperative that they come together and come to some type of conclusion and stop the madness," said Jefferson.

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