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VOL. 130 | NO. 120 | Monday, June 22, 2015

Council to Tackle Police, Fire Pay Raises Tuesday

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members meet in special session Tuesday, June 23, to again attempt to end the city’s budget season. Meanwhile, the police union is seeking a legal opinion on whether police can strike if city government doesn’t abide by the city’s impasse ordinance in a dispute over police pay.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The Memphis Police Association is asking its attorneys if union police officers are forbidden from going on strike if the Memphis City Council ignores an impasse committee’s recommendation to raise officer pay 3 percent.

MPA president Mike Williams said Monday, June 22, the union hasn’t gotten a legal opinion yet.

“They are trying to circumvent the impasse process,” Williams said. “They are trying to work this contract out and not include whatever compromises we come to in the memorandum of understanding.”

The city council meets Tuesday, June 23, in special session. Budget and tax rate items – including the pay raises – are the only items on the agenda.

Tuesday’s meeting resumes the June 16 council meeting, which was recessed instead of adjourned. The council meets at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage.

Memphis voters originally approved the impasse process as an amendment to the city charter in response to the 1978 fire and police strikes. But city administration took the position in Chancery Court in 1978 that strikes by municipal employees were illegal even without an impasse ordinance and charter amendment.

Williams warned that the city’s actions “mirror the actions of the elected officials in 1978 who attempted to pass a budget without first negotiating or resolving economic disputes with the labor associations representing the employees.”

“Have we come this far only to go back to pre-1978?” he said.

Council members recessed last week’s meeting after it became apparent the body had different ideas among its 13 members on pay raises for some but perhaps not all city employees.

Pay raises for six groups of city employees recommended by council impasse committees represent the biggest divergence in terms of dollar amount from Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s $656.5 million budget proposal.

The full council let stand a 3 percent pay raise for Memphis firefighters last week. Council member Reid Hedgepeth proposed a 2 percent raise for both police and firefighters, but it fell one vote short of the seven required.

Council chairman Myron Lowery, who has missed recent council meetings because of back problems, is expected to attend this week’s special meeting for a full 13-member body in attendance.

The council as a whole also expressed frustration last week with the answers it was getting from the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. They sought specific dollar figures in proposals to rearrange Wharton’s $656.5 million operating budget proposal.

Wharton’s push for that budget proposal wouldn’t be considered a hard sell compared to past mayors. But it is a change from past budget seasons in which Wharton has presented his budget proposals as more suggestion than an overall plan for council consideration.

This budget season, Wharton and his administration have defended their financial plan arguing it is a necessary follow through to begin paying its full pension liability obligation by fiscal year 2020, as required by state law. Meeting the obligation also includes savings from health insurance coverage changes for city employees and retirees, the administration argues.

But the council is still considering a plan to extend health insurance coverage for city retirees younger than 65 for at least the 2016 calendar year after the council and Wharton agreed a year ago to extend it through the current calendar year.

The move wrecks the administration’s multi-year ramp up to full pension liability funding, according to city finance director Brian Collins.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047