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Commissioners Vote “No” To Health Insurance Hike For Police

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(Source: CBS4)

(Source: CBS4)

maggieheadshot Maggie Newland
Maggie Newland is a reporter at CBS4. She arrived at the station ...
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MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) — Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted not to raise the cost of health insurance for police, but the mayor says that decision could cost hundreds of officers their jobs.

Earlier in the day Miami-Dade police officers and county employees filed into commission chambers to voice their concerns about contributing an additional 5-percent of their pay toward healthcare coverage, which would double the tab to 10-percent for thousands of county employees.

“We’re optimistic that the county commission will understand that enough is enough and that this extra five percent the mayor is trying to impose on us will not pass,” said Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Robert Borgmann.

Late Thursday, the commission decided not to force various county labor unions, including the Dade Police Benevolent Association and the Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU Local 100, to pay an additional 5-percent of their salary to their health insurance after the unions have already made major concessions. Commissioners agreed it wasn’t an easy decision.

“This is a non-win situation not for us not for anybody,” said District 12 Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.

“While the alternative, if they do not, then we have to be looking at reducing our cost in whatever way possible. It could mean layoffs, it probably does mean layoffs,” said Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

PBA President John Rivera said the police union plans to fight to find other ways of saving money.

“We’re sick and tired of the mayor playing that layoff game. If he needs to lay off, then lay off. Layoff at a time when crime is on the rise, layoff when this community needs more police officers than ever, do it! We’re sick and tired of your threats,” said Rivera

But the Mayor passed the blame onto commissioners who decided not to raise the health care costs.

“It could reduce public safety in this county and that’s squarely on the shoulders the Miami-Dade County Commission and the commissioners who voted to reduce the taxes and then decided not to do the right thing,” said Gimenez, adding pink slips could go out in a matter of weeks.   The county estimated about 154 police officers, 145 corrections officers, and 100 government supervisors could lose their jobs.

Hundreds of officers are packed into commission chambers wearing shirts that read, “Enough is Enough” including the former partner of fallen officer Amanda Haworth who is now caring for her two teenage sons.

“We live pay check to pay check just like every other county employee here,” said Sgt. Jeri Mitchell.

County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said he won’t decide how he’ll vote until he hears the concerns of county workers.

“While I’m not against the cuts that have to be imposed on everybody, I am against the way the mayor is putting it right now. The 5-percent, I truly believe it is illegal,” said Martinez.

If police employees are hit with the added health-care contribution, the union plans to challenge the legality of the move.

“If they rule in an adverse condition toward us, it won’t be the end for us,” said Rivera. “We’ll take it to the courts. We think there’s some legal problems with that they’re trying to do.”

The county had planned on balancing the budget by obtaining $239 million in labor concessions but those savings won’t be reached due to delays in reaching those cost-saving labor contracts.

An additional 5-percent contribution from both the PBA and the GSAF would yield $35 million in annual savings to the county.

For all county employee groups, the extra 5 percent health-care contribution would save some $87.6 million a year.

All county employee groups, except for the firefighters who have a separate health-insurance plan through the International Association of Firefighters Local 1403, have been pressed to accept the additional 5-percent contribution to health care.

Three other unions that have reached tentative contracts also are at impasse on the contentious health-care contribution. If employees ratify those agreements in coming days, the commission will again have to decide whether to impose the extra health-care contribution on those groups.

Solid waste employees — represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3292 — are slated to vote Friday on a tentative agreement. Water and sewer workers, who belong to AFSCME Local 121, are set to vote Monday and general county employees, represented by AFSCME Local 199, will weigh in on their tentative agreement on Jan. 20.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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