Miami-Dade County

Gimenez and police union set for talks after stand-off

Mayor Carlos Gimenez will meet with leaders of the county’s police union to try to jump-start contract negotiations as the police department prepares to brief about 400 employees about possible layoffs.

The session announced Wednesday came after an exchange of letters between Gimenez and John Rivera, head of the Police Benevolent Association union. The two have sparred publicly in the media, and Rivera said he will not attend the Aug. 21 meeting with the mayor. Instead, members of the PBA’s leadership will be there, according to Rivera and a Gimenez aide.

Rivera condemned the mayor’s austerity budget, which calls for eliminating about 270 police jobs and almost 600 positions countywide once the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Gimenez says Miami-Dade can avoid layoffs if unions agree to extend current pay concessions and accept less-generous health benefits.

Though Gimenez needs agreements with the county’s 10 bargaining units, the police union quickly emerged as his most public foe. Rivera warned residents they may need to arm themselves after an early draft police budget showed about 450 job cuts, while Gimenez representatives accused the PBA of boycotting recent contract talks.

The PBA objected to Miami-Dade using one of the union’s former lawyers as a negotiator, but this week Gimenez said he would send someone else to the talks if it would let negotiations proceed.

Gimenez wrote Rivera on Tuesday, saying he wanted to “personally meet with you” about negotiations and “do everything possible to avoid budgetary cuts....” Rivera wrote back Wednesday, saying: “The PBA welcomes the opportunity to sit with you.... We are open to ideas, not demands, and will share our thoughts.”

It wasn’t clear Wednesday evening why Rivera wasn’t slated to participate in the meeting, which a Gimenez aide said will likely take place outside County Hall. Police administrators sent notices this week to about 400 employees that their jobs could be in jeopardy if the proposed 270 cuts take effect.