Miami-Dade County

Miami, police union have tentative contract

Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso (middle) poses for a picture next to FOP president Sgt. Javier Ortiz before Miami’s first budget hearing in September. The city and union now have a tentative contract. The billboard in the back portrays Alfonso as Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags.
Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso (middle) poses for a picture next to FOP president Sgt. Javier Ortiz before Miami’s first budget hearing in September. The city and union now have a tentative contract. The billboard in the back portrays Alfonso as Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags. Miami Herald

After several months of at-times animated negotiations, Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police has a new contract pending with the city.

Union and city negotiators signed a tentative agreement Tuesday that provides raises that in some cases are worth more than $10,000. The deal eventually lowers pension contributions for newer officers, launches random steroid testing for the first time, and reconfigures a pay scale thrown off by the steep, tiered wage cuts forced on the union four years ago.

The deal, retroactive to Oct. 1 if it’s approved by the union and commission, is good for only 12 months. Union leaders believe that will pay off during negotiations next year when city coffers are expected to swell with property taxes and a union lawsuit over the forced recession-era cuts goes before the Florida Supreme Court.

City officials say they expect the pending agreement to cost an additional $3 million in 2015.

“It’s a fair contract. We definitely deserve more. And that’s why we’re only doing a one-year agreement,” said FOP president Sgt. Javier Ortiz. “I do believe it’s a step in the right direction.”

The tentative agreement signed Monday follows a series of negotiations that at times spilled into public view. During the first budget hearing, the union protested and parked a rolling billboard outside City Hall that bore an image of City Manager Daniel Alfonso as Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags.

The two sides sparred over what the city could afford after rebounding from a financial crisis. Alfonso unsuccessfully fought for contract stipulations that would eliminate a 173-hour parting gift that acts as a bonus lump sum payout for retiring officers, and to nix a pension-boosting 5-percent salary bump for the final year’s pay of retirees. The union also balked at Alfonso’s request to suspend officers without pay if charged with any felony offense.

Alfonso was able to get senior officers to contribute 3 percent more of their salary toward pensions for one year, and a $1.2 million reduction in the city’s contribution into a police union health trust that helped offset the cost of the deal. But overall, the question was always about how much the city would improve the contract for its police officers after they saw their pay and pensions slashed in 2010 when the city declared a “financial urgency.”

“It’s an agreement we have with our FOP, and we look forward to getting negotiations behind us,” Alfonso said in a somewhat lukewarm embrace of the deal.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the deal is that it creates a new tiered “step” system that improves pay but also corrects a wage system thrown out of whack by recession-era cuts that left some senior officers making less money than their juniors. The new scale means a wide range of raises — from about $2,000 to $13,000 — which Ortiz explained is about creating equity among members.

A few members, specifically seven sergeants whose pay was lower than others due to the timing of both their promotions and the city’s forced cuts, got raises as high as 19 percent to bring their wages to par with their colleagues.

“This is just to correct those anomalies,” said Ortiz, who was among that group and received a nearly $10,000 pay bump.

A vote by FOP membership is scheduled for Oct. 30. If members ratify the contract, commissioners will consider inking the deal next month.

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