Hialeah City Council is considering a new law for how its pension programs are changed while city unions oppose the measure.
The Miami Herald
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Author: LAURA ISENSEE, lisensee@MiamiHerald.com
Hialeah has taken the first step to change how its pension programs are altered, but not without opposition from the city’s unions.
Two proposed ordinances would eliminate language in the city code that requires approval from all three bargaining units for amendments to pension plans for general employees, firefighters and police.
Instead, according to the proposed ordinances, any amendments would be subject to collective bargaining.
The measures received preliminary approval from the Hialeah City Council at its meeting Tuesday and are expected to go before the council at its next meeting on Aug. 10 for a second and final reading.
Hialeah City Council is considering the changes amid strained contract negotiations with the city’s three unions and ahead of a difficult budget season.
According to William Grodnick, Hialeah ‘s city attorney, the current provision for altering pension programs is unlawful, even though it has been part of the city code since 1992.
”We can’t violate state law and that trumps city law,” Grodnick told Hialeah City Council.
Grodnick said the current law could be improperly applied if a member of one union blocked changes to the pension program of another union.
”The firefighters could control your destiny,” Grodnick added.
”I respectfully disagree,” said Hialeah Police Lt. Ricardo Fernandez, a representative for the Police Benevolent Association.
Fernandez and leaders from the unions urged the council to put aside the proposed ordinances and deal with any changes to the process at the bargaining table.
”This is an avenue for changes to be automatically made to our retirement system without our voice in it,” Fernandez said.
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina told the council members the unions can bargain pension and retirement benefits through the collective bargaining process.
”We have an obligation and a duty to move this forward,” Robaina said before the City Council cast a unanimous preliminary vote of approval.