On Monday, the city of Jacksonville and the local Fraternal Order of Police continued its collective bargaining efforts, in a five-hour-plus afternoon session that spilled over into the evening.
Going into the session, the main sticking point was a small but meaningful disagreement on raises for current employees, and whether or not new hires would go into a city defined contribution plan with a 25 percent match or into the FRS’ defined benefit plan.
Complicating the process: Sheriff Mike Williams, who had previously said he wanted a “competitive” package, told us last week that the deal on the table from the city was solid and merited real consideration.
Meanwhile — for those interested in the city’s offer, set to expire before Valentine’s Day — time was of the essence.
But what would Monday hold?
Ultimately, some concessions on issues, detailed below.
And the police union advanced a new proposal: the individual pension contract.
This concept, a departure from the FRS proposal, would require the city to set pension contracts with all union members, and would protect them from the city’s historic penchant for unilaterally changing terms.
That’s the short version; the long form version is below.
The meeting started with the city side responding to questions and proposals from the union, including on contribution levels, ability to withdraw from the plan, whether the council can vote to approve the deal before the union does, and the impact of a successful legal challenge in the 4th Judicial Circuit against the pension tax referendum in 2016.
CAO Sam Mousa noted that the city’s current offer had to be accepted by Feb. 11, and otherwise is retracted.
$54,000 is the maximum contribution allowable to the plan. Meanwhile, for both police and corrections workers, there are allowable markers for withdrawals from the plan.
For police, as soon as 50 years old under certain conditions, such as 20 years of service; for corrections, 55 years old, under certain conditions, such as 25 years of service.
Mousa also noted, regarding body cameras, that the matter is “not an appropriate subject for collective bargaining,” given the fact that the JSO is developing a policy with union input.
Mousa rejected the police union’s proposal for pay raises of 8 percent for three straight years, while agreeing that all people under the current plan would have the same benefits.
And among other rejections, the union’s desire to have all new hires in FRS’ defined benefit plan.
Mousa then presented revised proposals from the city.
Among them: a clarification that a 3 percent COLA would apply to survivor benefits.
Mousa also reiterated the seven year term of collective bargaining he had proposed previously, noting that was renewable at three, six, and seven years.
CFO Mike Weinstein, meanwhile, struck at the heart of the 2015 agreement with his comments that the city would no longer pay the accelerated payment schedule that agreement mandated, once a new plan is in place.
The reasoning: that plan was a “placeholder” until a “sustainable funding source” was located.
All chapter funds would revert to the custody of the police and fire pension fund.
Meanwhile, those who have DROP’d and retired since 2015 would be “made whole, as if they had never left the plan.”
Mousa also noted that the defined contribution plans for new hires would have a third party manager, and that all bargaining agreements must be approved by the city council.
As well, the baseline contribution for the long-term annuity proposed last time these parties met would be 10 percent.
Spoiler alert: the union didn’t agree to these terms out of hand.
The union pushed back on the city’s contention that body cameras are not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining; the city contended that cameras are a “management right,” and that these wouldn’t be bargained during this session.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re not going to talk about it,” Michael Mattimore, the city’s chief negotiator, said.
“Right now, we have no interest in bargaining … but we’re going to make a commitment to bargaining in the future,” Mattimore said.
“We all know the sheriff wants these cameras out in April,” FOP Head Steve Zona said.
Zona’s offer was shot down by Mousa, in terms of collectively bargaining on cameras “today.”
Regarding chapter funds, the union wanted 14 percent of them allocated to a share plan. The accounts, said Zona, potentially contain $90 million currently.
Weinstein suggested that a set date was needed for this, and that should be the date of implementation.
Zona, two hours into the meeting, noted that Mayor Lenny Curry messages around the theme of “promises made, promises kept.”
Curry hit every roll call of officers recently, and told the force (per First VP Randy Reeves) that “if I could find a legal way to secure your benefits today, I would sign it today.”
Mousa noted that he wasn’t at these roll calls.
When asked if the mayor could be called, Mousa said “we’d rather just look at your proposal, Steve.”
“Makes no damn difference what the mayor said or didn’t say. Makes no difference. Let’s see your proposal,” Mousa said.
From there, the FOP proposal: defined contribution retirement plans.
While these would be defined contribution, they would not be changeable, and would have an
Voluntary contracts with employees for pensions, which are used in Tampa and Miami Beach, and do not allow for unilateral change of terms.
The vesting schedule was changed, to be 100 percent after three years, with half the vesting in the first year.
The city would also offer meetings between the officers and financial advisers, during the first year of training, and at 10 and 20 year intervals.
Meanwhile, the union would accept the current wage proposal on the table, adding up to 20 percent over three years, with a three percent lump sum.
Mousa questioned the legality of these contracts, relative to the city of Jacksonville.
The research would take time. And legal guidance from the FOP’s attorney.
The accelerated vesting schedule was a sticking point for Mousa.
“You were worried that a DC plan would have employees take the money and leave. This seems contrary to what you’re saying,” Mousa said.
Mousa then agreed to the vesting schedule, after hearing Zona say that “positions change.”
“This has been in practice for decades,” Zona said, referring to Tampa and Miami Beach, who have these plans.
Mousa’s stated concern: the legality of the plan.
“Until we have ample opportunity to review this proposal,” Mousa said, “this is not on the table today.”
“You have a three year window,” Mousa added, to renegotiate the plan after accepting the city’s terms.
The union attorney produced a number of cases that spoke to the legality of these individual pension contracts.
The model the union seeks: a simple, one-page contract, that would tie benefits in for the term of employment.
Mousa bristled against this line of discussion, including fixed benefits for the entire term of employment.
Zona, meanwhile, said “we came here today to get a deal done.”
“We’re the only union in the city with employees in all three funds. Take the time to vet [the deal],” Zona said.
Mousa noted that the city had provided a “decent wage proposal.”
“Whether we make a deal or not, life goes on. We’re going to make our budget. Life is good,” Mousa said.
“The mayor has proposed to make your benefits whole. Your members deserve a wage increase,” Mousa added, noting that it is in the union’s interest not to let this opportunity “slip by.”
General Counsel Jason Gabriel noted that these plans may not fit Jacksonville.
And “even if it were legal, it might be a terrible idea. Last time we had a 30 year contract, it was thrown out by a judge.”
Corrections officers, and their plight, were also discussed.
There are severe worries about attrition, and other counties are paying their corrections officers more.
The proposed solution: salary parity, to resolve what the union sees as a 20 year problem, with correctional salaries lagging behind patrol.
The disparity can be as much as 36 percent.
To this end, “baby steps” on a “pathway to parity” were proposed.
Among them: a 25 percent raise, phased in over three years.
The city’s offer would cost the city $12.7 million more; the FOP counteroffer would be $2.765 more than the city’s, approaching $15.5 million.
Mousa’s take: to reopen the discussion in the first year of a new agreement.
“We acknowledge the problem. And we’re going to have to fix it,” Mousa said, with a “new compensation package that we would present to corrections.”
The time frame for that: after Oct. 1, 2017, when the new budget will have gone into effect.
The union advanced another proposal: extending the term of the agreement to 10 years, contingent on an average 2 percent increase in the sales tax collections, and satisfying the “gross amount” of the assumed rate of return.
Zona also noted the city’s tendency to roll back its millage rate, and said that if the city cuts taxes, it “artificially” stunted the growth of the fund.
The city agreed to the 10 year term (renewable at 3, 6, 9, and 10 years).
And the city agreed to the terms on sales tax and rate of return on the pension fund.
Regarding millage, the goal would be 2.5 percent growth on the ad valorem, with a year taken out if a millage reduction kept the revenue stream from hitting its target.
All of this said, the difference boils down to the city insisting upon its deal, and the union wanting its latest proposal considered.
This discussion will resume in the near future.
One resolved point: the union rejected the annuity proposal out of hand.