With his city in tatters, its finances in ruins, Detroit’s mayor, David Bing, doesn’t mince words.
Mayor Dave Bing today criticized leaders of the city’s largest union for foot-dragging on contract negotiations, saying it’s costing the financially strapped city $500,000 a month and could result in more layoffs.
“Either they can’t read, they can’t add or they can’t comprehend,” Bing said at a press conference this morning in his office at City Hall. “It has to be one of the three.”
“Everyone is running with a deficit in their budgets. It’s leadership or a lack of leadership that has got us to where we are.”
Bing said he’s ready to impose a contract on the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 but said the city must follow the law. Both parties are now in fact-finding, a process which could last until July.
More layoffs may be necessary in the meantime to help shore up the city’s estimated $325 million deficit, although Bing didn’t give any numbers.
Bing has been at odds for months with AFSCME leaders over calls for concessions, including 10 percent pay cuts through 26 furlough days and fringe benefit cuts. The union represents about 3,600 workers such as landscapers, street pavers and crossing guards.
Bing has ratified deals with 26 of the city’s 49 unions, one union vote is pending, and he has imposed contract conditions on three others, staffers said.
He blamed union officials, who he said have repeatedly tried to delay negotiations in court unsuccessfully, including asking a judge at one point to jail Bing for contempt. Bing said he is sensitive to the rank-and-file city employees but said the city is in a “financial crisis”.
“It’s not the rank and file,” Bing said. “The (union) leadership will still have their jobs.”
The City Council recently approved fringe benefits reductions that Bing negotiated with about 25 unions representing nearly 1,400 staffers and another 1,300 non-union workers. They include:
- Suspending tuition reimbursement until 2012 to save $520,000 a year.
- Reducing vacation and sick days for new hires, including eliminating up to six bonus vacation days if they don’t call in sick.
- Dropping coverage for fertility and impotence drugs such as Viagra to save $1.6 million a year.
- Stopping employees from being able to add adult dependents — parents or adult children — to their insurance as long as they pay the monthly premiums.
- These are in addition to a 10 percent pay cut in the form of 26 furlough days.
In August, Bing vowed to lay off 1,000 workers if unions didn’t agree to new contracts. He backed down, but noted the city’s work force has fallen to 11,800 from 13,200 when he took office in May. [Emphasis added.]
Suffice it to say that, if more politicians had the backbone that Bing has, many of America’s states and cities might not be in the dire straits they are in today.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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