Jacksonville Public Employee Union Spars With City Over Retroactive Pay Raises

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A month after Jacksonville voters passed a sales-tax extension to cover $2.85 billion in pension costs, city-employee unions are negotiating the terms of closing pension plans to new members.

Mayor Lenny Curry said his administration is putting forward a solution he thinks will satisfy all parties, but was scant on the specifics.

“It will recognize that we’ve got to create plans that are sustainable, plans that the hard -working people of Jacksonville will feel good about, plans that will ensure that we don’t have this pension crisis upon us again,” he said.

Curry also said future pay raises would be part of the pension discussion.

“The employees of the city of Jacksonville have taken pay cuts, haven’t had raises in years. So we need to address all of this collectively,” he said.

One employee union, the Jacksonville Supervisors Association, is asking for a 2.04 percent pay bump, which would apply retroactively to the 2015-16 fiscal year. But union President Jason Geiger said the city only wants to talk about the future.

“We’ve made it very clear from the start that before we proceed into any negotiations into pension we would like to settle the 2015 – 2016 budget year, and we’ve failed to get anywhere with the city of Jacksonville on that particular year,” he said.

Geiger said his union paused contract renewal negotiations in January as a courtesy to city officials who were waiting for the results of August’s voter referendum. Now, he said, it’s time for the city to bargain in good faith.

“They have come to us and said that they’ll have a comprehensive economic package available in about 30 days whether the two percent reduction we have taken is part of that agreement, we’re just unsure of at this time,” Geiger said. “Our point today was that we are of one of only two bargaining units out of police and fire that took the reduction back in 2010 and the other units have either been restored back to their prior salary or never took the reduction at all.”

In order for the the pension tax to take effect, Jacksonville must close at least one of its three public-pension plans, through negotiations with nearly 10 different unions and all employees must also contribute at least 10 percent of their salary to their retirement.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

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