Labor groups slam Dean’s budget proposal

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 1:01am
SEIU's Doug Collier

Three large labor organizations distributed a statement Monday criticizing Mayor Karl Dean’s budget proposal for its suggested pay freezes and its bypassing of longevity bonuses for the next fiscal year.

The Service Employees Industry Union, along with the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters represent about 11,000 Metro workers, according to their media release.

“In these trying economic times, now is not the time for Mayor Dean to put Nashville’s working families in the unemployment line,” SEIU Local 205 President Doug Collier said. “We have examined the administration’s budget proposal and believe that there are ways to bring balance without all the layoffs and cuts they are proposing.”

The union groups expressed anger at Dean’s proposal to skip longevity bonuses and freeze pay for the next fiscal year.

Richard Riebeling, Metro’s finance director, said the decision was not one the administration relished. He said the administration had to make tough choices considering the difficult economic times.

“I respect their opinion,” Riebeling said of the union groups’ criticisms. “We proposed a budget we thought was fairest to all the Metro employees. The options are, as we talked about shared sacrifices throughout the government, employees have to make some sacrifice. The end result was trying to avoid potential layoffs.”

At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry said considering the pay freeze and skipping of the longevity bonuses proposed by Dean will be the biggest question facing Metro Council during its budget process.

“It’s like you heard during the budget hearing today, the questions of asking about longevity pay to department heads,” Barry said on Monday. “We are trying to get a sense if there is a belief from department heads if their employees are going to be in a position to be grateful, as one person put it, for just having a job.

“Or is there is going to be a lot more discussion regarding the fact that if we do continue to have longevity pay, what is that going to mean for the overall budget?”

The labor groups also criticized Dean for a lack of communication surrounding the budget process.

“There has been a troubling lack of communication from the mayor’s office,” President of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 140 President Doug Conquest said. “All of us have meet-and-confer agreements that the mayor’s office has signed off on. Those agreements have not been honored during this process and city employees deserve better treatment than that.”

Metro saw revenues dive $27 million this fiscal year, forcing Dean to make cuts or propose raising property taxes in order to balance the $1.5 billion budget. Dean proposed 10 percent cuts to most departments, which along with the pay freeze and skipping the longevity bonuses, also means laying off about 125 workers.


7 Comments on this post:

By: michael thomas on 5/12/09 at 6:01

All this really means is to kick the lowest paid workers to the curb so they run big buisiness. What they forget is it takes workers to do the work which is people, without people they cannot do the work themselves. DUH! >:-(

By: JeffF on 5/12/09 at 7:27

Don't forget to approve the complete annual budget with all its pain before you finally reveal the financing plan for tourism's new billion dollar toy chest. You would not want to have anyone connect the dots.

By: dcdabbs on 5/12/09 at 7:44

Private businesses are drastically cutting salaries and laying off longtime employees in order to survive this recession. For the union to fight a pay freeze and longevity bonuses, two measures that require no sacrifice of an employee’s current income, demonstrates just how out of touch the union and it's followers are with the plight of the citizens to which they are responsible. If the union is truly concerned with putting working families in the unemployment line, then it should be in favor of pay cuts across the board so the 125 works facing layoffs may retain their jobs.

By: pandabear on 5/12/09 at 8:17

Yeah, and so how many of these folks want the convention center now ?!?

When the roosters come home you can smell the chickens :)

By: Time for Truth on 5/12/09 at 9:19

And the chickens have been filleted and left out in the sun for a few days (the three days of sun we've had this year).

By: girliegirl on 5/12/09 at 9:32

We've had to let go numerous employees in the last few months just so that we can keep our doors open. Furthermore, the president of our company has volunteered to go without pay during the month of June as a sign of good faith, while others are working only 4 days a week and less pay. The unions here need to have a "come to Jesus" moment now while they still can.

By: govskeptic on 5/12/09 at 11:16

The only unions in the country that are growing are those with government paid employees. In metro the mayor is attempting to save jobs, which means avoiding pay increases. The union, as usual, wants to save jobs and pay increases, oh and by the way, continue to pay the majority of our health care insurance and retirement benefits.
The selfishness displayed by both the SEU and the teacher's union, no matter the circumstances or economy, never seems to amaze this one taxpayer. Private sector employees are having it tough in many many ways economically, but are expected to pay more in taxes to help the newly elite public sector.