Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
OMAHA — After nearly eight years, the city has a new contract with the Omaha Fire Union.
Despite recent complaints from several candidates for mayor, the City Council today, by a vote of 6-1, approved its deal with the Omaha Fire Union.
Four Democrats and two Republicans backed the agreement. Only Republican Franklin Thompson voted no.
Thompson, who has a long history of run-ins with the union, said he was voting against the agreement because “the union plays hardball a little too much.”
According to many members of the council, the new contract has received little criticism from the general public.
Council members Jean Stothert, a Republican, and Chris Jerram, a Democrat, argue the four-year deal, which runs through the end of 2014, comes with a year-and-a-half pay freeze, ends pension spiking, raises the retirement age for new hires from 45 to 55 and includes major pension and health care reforms.
While some on the council call the deal a “good first step,” Council President Tom Mulligan, a Republican, said it’s a “major improvement” over other deals.
During the past few days, two Republican mayoral hopefuls, Dave Nabity and Dan Welch, ripped the deal.
Nabity complained that the contract’s pension provisions, which are based on an annual rate of return on investments of 8 percent, “is unrealistic.”
Nabity says 5 percent is more likely and says without adjusting the contract the city is “headed for the cliff.”
Welch says the contract “violates the city charter” by forcing taxpayers to contribute nearly twice as much to the pension fund as firefighters.
Jerram, who mentioned neither Nabity nor Welch by name, insisted the two had their facts all wrong and said opposing the contract would be “fiscal insanity.”
A year and a half ago, after rejecting a contract between Mayor Jim Suttle and the fire union, the council pulled the mayor away from the bargaining table and took over the talks which resulted in today’s deal.
Although the council insists it’s saving taxpayer dollars, Fire Union President Steve LeClair recently told Nebraska Watchdog that Suttle put up a tougher fight.
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