JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The message from the Fraternal Order of Police to the city was clear: Take pension discussions up with the Police and Fire Pension Fund or we’ll see you in court.
City representatives met with the FOP at their lodge on Beach Blvd. Wednesday to discuss the conflict between the police union and the city, but there wasn’t much to discuss. Police union president Nelson Cuba called the city’s current plan for police officers “disgraceful” and “a slap in the face” to the officers who go out and put their lives on the line in a very dangerous job. The mayor’s police pension reform proposal calls for officers to work 27 years instead of 20 before collecting pension and raises police contributions to their own pensions from 7 to 14 percent per paycheck.
Cuba went on to say that the city set up a pension system for police with the PFPF, not the FOP, in 2001 that does not expire until 2030, so they say there’s no point in talking pension reform when the agreement isn’t even with them.
“If we’re blessed enough to make it through this career, and survive, then we were hoping that this community, this city, would keep their promise to us and give us what we’ve earned. It’s not a handout, we’re not welfare recipients. We’ve worked for this, we’ve earned it, and in my opinion, we deserve everything we get.”
Cuba then read a letter addressed to the mayor’s offce, calling for them to take the pension negotiations to the PFPF because that is where the current pension agreement, which was passed in 2001, lies. The mayor’s office has argued that Florida law says the city is allowed to begin discussions with the collective bargaining unit, which is the police union. Assistant general counsel Derrel Chatmon tried to ask Cuba a few questions about some of his concerns, but Cuba told Chatmon there’s nothing left to discuss.
“I’m not going to talk about it. I’m done talking. Take it to the courts,” said Cuba.
Cuba says he doesn’t understand why the mayor waited until nearly 18 months after he was elected to tackle pension reform, saying that Mayor Peyton had already laid a plan out on the table that could have been worked on or tweaked.
“HE chose to ignore it for 18 months and now he starts screaming ‘The sky is falling! The sky is falling!'”
Chatmon says the city wants to resolve the matter peacefully and is considering several ways it can move foward from this point, though he wasn’t specific on what those ways would be. He added that although they’d prefer to avoid a lawsuit, certain things are unavoidable sometimes.
“There are other avenues to be taken and this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning,” said Chatmon. “It’s always a matter of trying to resolve things out of court, I don’t care what the entity happens to be….but at the same time, what has to take place has to take place.”
Cuba compared the situation to one the Jaguars were facing before the start of the season with RB Maurice Jones-Drew holding out of training camp and owner Shad Khan refusing to give the star tailback a new contract when he still had two years left on his current one.
“I like our position. I believe we’re Shad Khan, we’re the Jaguars, and they’re Maurice Jones-Drew. They can come to the table under good terms and try to make a deal or they’re going to have to live with what’s in place until 2030, period.”
Whatever tensions may have been present during the meeting quickly vanished afterward, at least temporarily, as Chatmon walked over to Cuba to give him a firm handshake and chat on the side for a bit. The two sides are slated to meet again November 14.