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January 26, 2011

2

CIR won’t be deciding PAGE retirement squabble

by Deena Winter

One city employee union — the second largest in the city — is still hanging out there working without a contract since last fall while resisting the mayor’s insistence that they agree to a less generous retirement match for new hires.

Public pressure led Mayor Chris Beutler’s administration to convince all but one union to agree to a 1-to-1 retirement match for new employees, while existing employees will keep their 2-to-1 match that irritated some during the Great Recession.

But this union — mostly comprised of blue collar and technical workers – is the only one that refused to bow to Beutler’s demand, and yesterday they went before the state Commission of Industrial Relations to settle three issues. Surprisingly, the retirement benefit wasn’t one of them.

The union’s attorney, Gary Young, said that’s because city officials realized long ago they couldn’t force the union to agree to the lower retirement benefit via the CIR. Young said Beutler would not bend on that retirement issue – and all the other city unions eventually gave in to the demand, except the Public Association of Government Employees, or PAGE, which represents about 500 city employees.

“If you’re the 800-pound gorilla and you can force people to do things because a union doesn’t want to go to the CIR, then you can bully your way into doing things that you’re not entitled to. PAGE wasn’t going to allow the mayor to bully them,” Young said of the Beutler administration. “There’s nothing they (the other unions) can do about it now.”

Beutler was responding to public outcry over the fact the city contributes up to 12 percent of employees’ salaries (matching 6 percent by the employee) toward their retirement – however, the city can’t change that benefit for existing employees unless the unions agree.

So even after the CIR rules on the three issues that were before it on Tuesday (over dental benefits, who decides when overtime begins in the pay cycle and whether the city should have to offer a defined benefit pension since it’s prevalent in other comparable cities), the retirement issue remains unresolved.

“If they’re going to do it, they’re going to have to do it at the negotiation table,” Young said.

Wonder if any of the other unions are wishing they’d taken a firmer stance on the issue?

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. CJ
    Jan 26 2011

    It’s nice to finally hear about a union in this state that successfully deals with management. The public employees unions (except for the teachers’ union) in this state are hapless. Whatever it is that PAGE has, the others ought to get some of it, and fast.

    Reply
  2. Roger Yant
    Jan 27 2011

    Unions that are government employees are holding the country hostage, government employees should not be able to unionize. Omaha, is broke, NY State, California and many more due to the outlandish retirement programs and pay. This matching of 2 for 1 is far and beyond what the private sector gets is one example. I say do what President Reagan did to the flight controllers back in the 80s, either go along or I will fire all of you, they called his bluff and he fired all of them. It can be done, but does any politician have the courage to do it? It needs to be done all over the country, the unions have gotten way out of hand in government. They are public servants paid by you and I demanding much more then they should get, not wanting to give a little in tough times. I say fire all of them, Reagan did, it worked and would do the same today.

    Reply

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