Miami-Dade commission making headway with unions towards contract deals
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade commissioners are slowly resolving an impasse over how to settle union impasses.
They passed a fiscal 2010 budget last month that relies on nearly $200 million in savings through cutting salaries and various benefits.
But those actions can't take effect until they're built into union contracts.
And the county loses about $8 million of its planned savings every pay period — every two weeks — until they are.
As of press time late Tuesday, commissioners made a few key decisions during their first public attempt at settling collective bargaining agreements with three unions:
nTo freeze longevity and merit bonuses for two years, with the option to reopen the issue should the economy change.
nTo give no cost of living increase this year but a 2% increase next year, with the same "re-opener" option then.
nTo direct the administration to calculate tiered compensation cuts based on flex, premium pay and salaries combined, with the commission to actually vote on cuts after considering the numbers.
Those decisions came about five hours into discussion, after several other motions failed and it seemed the commission was about ready to defer calls on union contracts again.
The union agreements have already been unresolved for one year of the three-year contract period, meaning commissioners' decisions affect this year and next.
At one point Tuesday, a motion to leave pay and benefits intact in favor of layoffs failed.
A general vote to cut salaries and benefits — with details on how to be decided next — died in a tie.
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez at one point suggested allowing more time to negotiate with unions.
Natacha Seijas suggested breaking and reconvening today (10/22).
But commissioners instead pressed on and ended up making headway, though as of deadline they had yet to vote on pay cuts.
They made it clear throughout the meeting they'd prefer to see tiered cuts rather than the across-the-board 5% the administration proposed, and they agreed to recess to allow staffers to run numbers.
County Manager George Burgess promised it would take about 15 minutes in real time, not Marlins stadium time, poking fun at the marathon meeting — complete with lengthy recess — during which the commission voted to approve a ballpark for the baseball team.
"I think we're on a roll and it would be good if we had that discussion this evening," he said Tuesday, encouraging a brief recess.
Still, nearly an hour later, the commission had yet to reconvene.
Once commissioners cement their decisions, the unions have a chance to ratify them.