Monday, May 11, 2009

Local Labor Leaders Insist Mayor's Budget Would Put "Nashville’s working families in the unemployment line"

From SEIU Communications Coordinator and fellow NashFreep columnist Mark Naccarato:
Labor Organizations Unite Against Mayor’s Budget Cuts

Firefighters, Police, SEIU Blast Administration’s Proposal and “Lack of Communication”

Nashville, TN – The Presidents of three of the city’s largest labor organizations, which represent approximately 11,000 city employees across dozens of departments, announced today their opposition to Mayor Dean’s budget plan, which would result in layoffs, pay cuts, and hikes in health insurance premiums.

“In these trying economic times, now is not the time for Mayor Dean to put Nashville’s working families in the unemployment line,” says Doug Collier, President of SEIU Local 205, which is the bargaining agent for over 8,000 General Government and Metro Schools employees. “We have examined the Administration’s budget proposal and believe that there are ways to bring balance without all the layoffs and cuts they are proposing”.

The Mayor’s current plan would result in layoffs of between 100 and 150 city employees. It would also bring cuts of up to 10% to whole departments, limiting their ability to provide the services that they are required to provide. The plan would also freeze employee increment pay increases which would require a drastic change to Metro’s civil service rules, and it would freeze longevity pay which helps the city retain more experienced employees as well as skilled workers. The Mayor’s current proposal would deny, for the second year in a row, cost-of-living adjustments to all Metro employees, even while prices for food, fuel, housing, and health insurance continue to skyrocket.

“We are united in our opposition to the Mayor’s plan, and we have a duty to represent not just our members, but also the best interests of taxpayers who rely on us to serve them,” says Robert Weaver, President of Nashville’s Fraternal Order of Police. “The F.O.P. wants to see a budget that makes good on the city’s obligations to all of its employees and one that does not affect public safety and all the other services that citizens demand”.

The labor officials also say that the Administration’s proposed budget cuts was not made in good faith. “There has been a troubling lack of communication from the Mayor’s office,” says Doug Conquest, President of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 140. “All of us have meet-and-confer agreements that the Mayor’s office has signed off on. Those agreements have not been honored during this process and city employees deserve better treatment than that.”

The officials and their organizations have vowed to make the case to the public over the next several weeks that the Mayor’s office has played politics during the budget process, that many of the budget cuts being proposed are unnecessary and unwise, and that there are alternative solutions to addressing the city’s fiscal situation.

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