Unions React to Mayor’s Request for Pay Freezes

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Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said the city will have to find some way to cut $13 million from its budget. To save money the mayor proposed freezing pay raises on the city’s union workers including public safety workers. WOSU reports both fire and police unions are not pleased with the news.

Columbus firefighters are set to get three percent pay raises starting in June. But that will not happen if Coleman’s request for a salary freeze is approved by unions. Wednesday the mayor asked five city workers’ unions to let him know their decisions by next Friday. But Columbus Firefighters’ Union president Jack Reall said he will not meet that deadline due to contract constraints. And Reall said Coleman did not give him enough time to notify workers before the news was leaked to the media.

“That’s not usually the way you want to generate support for a proposal,” Reall said.

“They have some concerns. They’ve not, they don’t feel that we have a partnership in this city right now in terms of making things happen positively. So they’re concerned that anything that they do will not be supported in the future.”

Columbus’ Fraternal Order of Police president Jim Gilbert said the mayor’s request could constitute unfair labor practices since the department is in current contract negotiations with the city.

“We along with the city to keep our negotiations out of the media, and in essence that agreement was broken by the mayor discussing our current contract negotiations in the media,” Gilbert said.

In November the mayor announced major budget and services cuts to fill an $83 million budget gap including closing 11 of the cities recreational centers.

The most recent $13 million cuts came when Columbus Auditor Hugh Dorian told Coleman the city’s revenues were down more than expected.

The pay freezes would make up the majority of the budget shortfall. The mayor said if unions reject the pay freezes there will likely be layoffs even in police and fire.

Gilbert said Columbus police are already stretched thin.

“I’m very hard-pressed to try to take back to my membership the issue for us to be willing to give back any type of monies so to speak in the form of any thing in the current contract is just ridiculous because our officers are already overworked,” Gilbert said.

Firefighters’ union president Jack Reall said firefighters understand the economic crisis, but he says layoffs would put the city and its firefighters in danger.

“I don’t think anybody can tell you that they’re prepared for laying off public safety officers not the mayor, not the fire chief, not the police chief and certainly not the public. That’s something that we’d have to evaluate and work on and figure out how we’re going to appropriately deal with it,” he said.

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