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Op-Ed Laura Neuman Anne Arundel County Executive
The County Administration recently negotiated mutually agreeable contracts with 12 of the 13 unions during labor union talks. The Local 1563 International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) would have been 13 but we could not come to a successful agreement.
The IAFF rejected the County Administration’s proposal for a two year contract that provided the return to a three shift, 48 hour work week effective January 1, 2014. The proposal included a 14.3% pay increase, a 3% merit increase on the employee’s anniversary date and a 3% cost of living increase. The IAFF currently works a four shift, 42 hour work week which leaves the fourth shift to be staffed mostly by using overtime. The union agreed to a tentative agreement after the Administration added a sixth year of eligibility to the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).
Contract negotiations went to binding arbitration where the County Administration and the union submitted their best and final offers to the arbitrator. The Administration’s offer was the same as the tentative agreement including the sixth year of the DROP. The IAFF’s best and final offer did not include a sixth year of the DROP. The arbitrator awarded in favor of the IAFF and they prevailed in keeping the fourth shift which will result in the need to hire 85-100 additional fire fighters to eliminate the need for overtime. Working excessive hours of overtime is a safety issue for our fire fighters, paramedics and ultimately the citizens they serve.
After succeeding in binding arbitration, the IAFF circumvented the collective bargaining process by requesting the Council add an amendment to Bill 56-13: Pension- Changes Eligibility for Deferred Retirement Option Plan which would have also given them a sixth year in the DROP.
Bill 56-13 was intended and written to fulfill the terms of successful collective bargaining negotiations with other public safety labor unions. The amendment adding a non-negotiated provision for the IAFF to receive the sixth year in DROP changes the intent of the Bill.
I will veto Bill 56-13 because of the amendment to include the IAFF in a sixth year of the DROP program since they rejected that provision during contract negotiations and omitted it from their best and final offer in binding arbitration.
When I took office, I made a promise to the County Council and to the residents of Anne Arundel County that I would not shy away from challenges and that the decisions that I make will be above board, transparent and prudent. The amendment to add the IAFF to receive a sixth year of DROP undermines the labor relations process of contract negotiations.
Thank you to the 12 labor unions for negotiating and coming to an agreement with the Administration.
I will re-introduce Bill 56-13 to the County Council as it was originally written. This allows the four public safety unions that collectively bargained and came to good faith agreements with the Administration to expand their eligibility in the DROP to a sixth year.