Reed signals thaw in feud with public safety workers

Atlanta patch

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signaled a thaw in an ongoing feud with public safety workers Monday, after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city in a lawsuit filed by firefighters, police and other city employees over changes to the city’s pension system.

The ongoing suit had led Reed to withhold raises to public safety personnel.  The mayor said he wouldn’t give raises to employees who had sued the city.

Monday Reed said “I look forward to getting back to the table with them.”

The police and firefighter unions sued saying the five percent pay raises they got were canceled out by the five percent they had to pay into the pension.

The high court upheld a Fulton County court ruling that dismissed their class-action lawsuit against the city.

Firefighters union vice president Vic Bennett said that he regretted losing the court case, but added that he welcomed the mayor’s conciliatory tone and offer to open talks.  “I look forward to that day. We’ve always been open and willing to meet with the mayor. To this day we have not. And hopefully with today’s decision, he’ll do this now,” Bennett said Monday.

Bennett said the union had stopped paying for a billboard that has displayed over the downtown connector since summertime, complaining that Reed “doesn’t care” about public safety.  Reed said he’d like the billboard gone before talks start.  A drive-by of the site indicates the billboard is not longer there.

Before the so called “pension reform,” City of Atlanta employees were required to contribute 7 to 8 percent of their annual salary to their pension plan. In June 2011, the city amended the pension plans to require employees to contribute 12 to 13 percent of their annual salary to the plans and left room for the amount to be increased to 12 and 13 percent.

In the decision, Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines wrote the local ordinance “did not alter Plaintiffs’ pension benefits, but rather modified their pension obligations, and in no manner divested Plaintiffs of their earned pension benefits, so as to implicate constitutional concerns.”