Firefighter Contract Debate

By: Gary Smollen Email
By: Gary Smollen Email

It's been a hot button issue for years but today the opposition to a firefighter union contract fails to spark much debate.

The tepid opposition seems to center around an expected 8% return on pension investments.

They came early and many were prepared for a long line at the podium but the wave of opposition didn't materialize.

Several did rise to oppose the proposed contract but even that seemed half-hearted.

Barton Bonn says, "I came down here as an opponent but I'm not sure now."

The most serious challenge to the contract centered on an actuarial number which placed an 8% annual return on pension investments.

Pat Rinn says, "The whole house of cards fells apart if you're not going to get that 8%."

Council Member Jean Stothert lead the council negotiating team and says rulings by the Court of Industrial Relations set limits on the city's negotiating power but says the contract is a good one.

Jean Stothert says, "Our goal was to save money for the taxpayers but our two main goals were healthcare reform and pension reform and we certainly met that goal."

Firefighters have approved the contract. Although they will pay more for insurance coverage and work longer before retirement but they still consider it the best deal available.

Steve LeClair says, "They are asked daily to risk their lives in the service of the citizens of the city of Omaha because the stakes of their employment are so high our members understand the terms of this agreement very well."

The council hopes the rest of the taxpayers do as well.

Historically the city's return on pension investment has done better than 8%.

This contract, if approved, ends in 2014. Negotiations would start on the next contract about a year from now.

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