Firefighter Back Pay Equals $2.2-million

A state labor court ruled recently that the city of Omaha owed. The amount covers the years 2009 and 2010.

Remember -- the firefighters union and Mayor Jim Suttle had agreed to a pay freeze for 2009 and 2010 if all sides could reach an approved contract. That hasn't happened.

The mayor blames the city council for not seeing a good deal for what it is -- saving taxpayer dollars and fixing the pension.

A majority on the city council believe it doesn't go far enough to curbing a department that usually exceeds its annual budget by millions.

It could be May before firefighters receive the back pay.

The city is asking for clarification on a few issues in the 70-page ruling. The state court will hear those motions in the next couple of weeks.

One revolves around staffing. The city believes it can shift resources around based on management prerogative.

The union has long had the belief that if there's a minimum staffing number in the contract, the city has to make sure there are that many firefighters on the job.

Firefighters are supposed to get the back pay 90-days after the ruling which was last week. But the clock won't start until these issues are settled.

So where will the money come from in a budget that is already in the red? With the restaurant tax bringing in more than expected in the first month, some experts believe there will be extra there once the pension portion is paid.

City leaders say it's possible that negotiations for a new fire contract could continue, but it's more likely both sides will wait to see what the courts decide.

The fire department's last negotiated contract expired at the end of 2007.


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