Reporting Mike Campbell
DETROIT (WWJ) - The office of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has sent letters to two of the city’s biggest unions, informing that their contracts will end when they expire in 10 days.
Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said the notifications to the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 (AFSCME) and the Detroit Police Lieutenants & Sergeants Association (LSA) are administrative actions and don’t mean immediate changes for employees.
Mark Young, president of LSA, said the letter informed him that the termination of their collective bargaining agreement with the city will be effective July 6, 2013.
“Our collective bargaining agreement would have normally expired on June 30. So what happens is, we would have been in negotiations with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission and we would have had a successor collective bargaining agreement that would have continued. Now, we’re totally at the mercy at the city of Detroit and the emergency manager,” he said.
Young said once his association was notified of the contract termination, some went and jumped ship.
“Due to the uncertainty, I have numerous members now, brave men and women who have put their lives on the line for over 25 years, and I got members with less than 25 years that are vesting whatever pension and benefits they have and just retiring,” he said.
“They’re concerned about their families, they’re concerned about their benefits going forward and they’re leaving, they’re retiring in groves. They’re trying to leave under the collective bargaining agreement before terms are issued and that’s troubling to me. I had seven people retire yesterday, seven, just yesterday, because they’re concerned and they’re trying to outrun this collective bargaining agreement,” he continued.
While some members are opting to retire, others have actually asked Young for new job recommendations.
“I’ve got guys asking me to help them find jobs in other cities. I’ve got guys asking me to help them with options, because they’re already struggling financially. They’re concerned about their benefits, wages and pensions, and these are serious concerns for people who already have a tough job,” he said. “And it’s not like they’ve got super benefits. If you compared us to other law enforcement agencies, we’re at the bottom, in pay and benefits.”
Young said head hunters have contacted him as well, so finding new jobs for these officers isn’t exactly a tough search.
“The city of Detroit already invested a lot of training and experience in these individuals and they’re very valuable in the law enforcement community. Other law enforcement agencies are coming here to seek out some of these people because if you get a Detroit cop that’s been through all he’s been through, he’s an asset to any law enforcement agency,” he said.
Young said the changes brought upon by the contract termination won’t just be limited to law enforcement, as citizens will notice an effect as well.
“What it means is that there will be less law enforcement members out there because they’re not hiring as of current, there’s less supervisors out there, there’s less officers out there and less investigators to process and investigate these cases,” he said.
In the meantime, Young said LSA is doing everything they can to preserve their members’ benefits and jobs.
“We’re appealing to the EM for stabilization; my members need stabilization of their benefits. They also need a collective bargaining agreement that would be comparable based on the job that they do. It’s tough for these guys,” he said.
As for AFSCME Council 25, the city’s largest union, spokesman Ed McNeil said Thursday morning that he hadn’t seen a notification from Orr’s office and the union hasn’t met with Orr since he was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in March, the Associated Press reported.
Under Michigan law, an emergency manager has the power to develop financial plans, renegotiate labor contracts, revise and approve budgets to help control spending, sell off some city assets and suspend the salaries of elected officials.