MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – Layoffs now loom in the future of the Miami-Dade Police Department in the wake of a narrow vote by Miami-Dade Commissioners who refused to force two employee unions to contribute an additional 5-percent of their pay toward health insurance which would have doubled the tab to 10-percent for thousands of county employees.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned that if the Commission voted in favor of the unions, then layoffs would be necessary to balance the county budget. Despite the warning, the commissioners voted 7-6 against settling a labor impasse between the county and the Dade Police Benevolent Association by forcing the additional concession on 5,400 police and corrections officers.
The panel also refused to impose the controversial 5-percent giveback on its professionals and supervisors, who are represented by the Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU Local 100. That move spells an almost-certain wave of layoffs for them as well.
The mayor estimated that at least 154 police officers and 145 corrections officers would have to be laid off as the county scrambles to close a $35-million budget gap it had expected to fill through additional employee concessions. The county will also likely have to close a corrections facility.
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.
The mayor said commissioners knew that painful employee concessions were needed when they voted in September to approve his budget plan, which reduced the property-tax rate and he 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, who added pink slips could go out in a matter of weeks.
The seven commissioners who voted against the increased healthcare contribution were Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime, Javier Souto, Xavier Suarez and Chairman Joe Martinez. Voting for it were Lynda Bell, Esteban Bovo, Sally Heyman, Dennis Moss, Rebeca Sosa and Audrey Edmonson.
Edmonson said she supported the measure because she did not want to see police officers laid off.
PBA President John Rivera plans to fight against the layoffs.
“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.
Hundreds of officers packed the commission chambers wearing shirts that read, “Enough is Enough”, including relatives of slain officers who made emotional presentations urging support of the union’s stance. Among those attending were Robert Haworth, the father of deceased Officer Amanda Haworth, and Debbie Castillo, widow of Officer Roger Castillo, who were both killed in the line of duty last year. Haworth’s former partner, Sgt. Jeri Mitchell who is now caring for her two teenage sons, was also there.
“We live pay check to pay check just like every other county employee here,” said Mitchell.
Commissioners and union leaders criticized the mayor for focusing too heavily on employee concessions instead of finding savings elsewhere in the $4.4 billion operating budget.
Three other unions — representing solid waste employees, water and sewer workers, and general county employees, have reached tentative contracts but also are at impasse on the healthcare contribution. If employees ratify those agreements in coming days the commission will again have to decide whether to impose the extra 5 percent on those groups.
Solid waste employees — represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3292 — are set 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 pact on Jan. 20.
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