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Wed., Jul. 30, 2014
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City sets talks with police, fire unions The leader of the city's police union says he'll participate in the meetings to discuss preventing layoffs, but he remains wary because the city's budget process is not yet complete.

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day


New London - The unions representing members of the police and fire departments will meet with the city administration later this week to discuss the possibility of contract concessions and saving the jobs of 25 firefighters and 10 police officers.

Todd Lynch, president of the police union, said he plans to meet with his membership today and a member of the mayor's administration on Thursday. The fire union has a meeting scheduled at City Hall for Friday, according to its union president, Rocco Basilica.

"We're going in there to make sure no one gets laid off,'' Basilica said Tuesday.

"We want to hear what they have to say,'' Lynch said, but he added he is skeptical because the budget process is not completed.

"If there's a referendum, or if they have to cut more, we don't want to put the cart before the horse,'' Lynch said. "We don't want to enter into an agreement and then have to go back to the table again.''

Chief Administrator Officer Jane Glover will represent the city during the meeting with the union officials.

Zak Leavy, the mayor's assistant, said Tuesday that the city contacted the unions in January and asked the police chief and fire chief for budget requests that would fully fund their departments.

"Now, because of the reality of the budget cuts, we have to negotiate. Everything is on the table,'' he said.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced last week that the city would have to lay off 25 firefighters and 10 police officers to stay within the confines of next year's proposed $83 million budget. The layoffs would save about $1.2 million.

Finizio told the City Council Monday that he did not want any city employee to lose a job and suggested the council add about $600,000 to the budget and raise taxes to save the 25 jobs in the fire department. The savings for laying off 10 police officers is about $580,000. The council did not add any money to the proposed budget Monday night.

Finizio said he was surprised that so many layoffs would result in so little savings, noting that overtime pay would be needed as a result of the lost positions.

Basilica said the fire department has been talking with the city about renegotiating its pension agreements. Because of the way the 401 savings plan is set up, eligible firefighters are unable to retire because of financial constraints, he said.

The firefighters want a defined benefit pension, similar to what police officers and other city union members have.

He said he has no idea how the negotiations will turn out.

"I have no confidence in the city right now,'' he said. "A hundred things could happen."

During Monday's meeting, City Councilor Adam Sprecace said he believed there was enough money in the budget to avoid layoffs. The budget passed on a 4-3 vote.

Lynch said he's unsure what the meetings will yield.

"Obviously there is controversy between the council and the mayor's office on whether there's enough money in the budget or not,'' Lynch said. "Some members of the council say there is enough money in the budget for no layoffs.

"But I'm going in with an open mind,'' he added.

k.edgecomb@theday.com


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