Pension reform demands action in KC | Midwest Voices

Kansas City Star Editorial

At yet another private meeting today, Kansas City police, fire and union leaders will argue with City Manager Troy Schulte and other city staff members over pension reform.

Supposedly, these closed-door sessions over the last several months have led to some reasonable ways to change retirement plans that Schulte has called “unsustainable.”

Properly so, City Council member Jan Marcason is keeping pressure on all sides to come forward with a plan at a council committee meeting Wednesday morning.

The situation is dire but not out of hand — yet. The city’s unfunded pension liabilities jumped from $559 million to $611 million between 2011 and 2012.

A task force last year recommended a solid, basic framework for reform. These points ought to be in Schulte’s plan:

Increase the employee contribution rate by 1 percent.

Reduce the mostly automatic 3 percent annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Require employees to work longer to increase their final retirement pay.

Create a defined contribution system, like a 401(k), for some management employees.

Action is required by 2013 to control pension costs so the city can provide better basic services and give realistic benefits to current and future retirees.

via Pension reform demands action in KC | Midwest Voices.

Contract with Wichita teachers approved – AP State Wire News – The Sacramento Bee

WICHITA, Kan. — Wichita teachers and the district’s school board have approved a tentative contract that includes the first raise for teachers in four years.

The teachers and board both approved the contract on Monday, after months of negotiations.

Union officials said Monday that about two-thirds of the district’s 4,000 teachers voted, with 88 percent approving. The agreement includes a 4 percent increase in salary, benefits and reduced work time.

Superintendent John Allison said the $8.6 million cost of the contract has already been factored into the district’s budget.

via Contract with Wichita teachers approved – AP State Wire News – The Sacramento Bee.

Report Card: Best, Worst States for Workers’ Compensation

Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia do the best job handling workers’ compensation injuries, while Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Wyoming perform the worst.

That’s according to the latest report card from the California-based Work Loss Data Institute (WLDI). The report, 2009 State Report Cards for Workers’ Comp, is meant to help employers, insurers, third party administrators, state governments and consultants answer, “Who is doing well and why?”

WLDI’s State Report Cards are based on data from OSHA that covers recordable injuries and illnesses. The 2009 release adds four more years worth of data (2003-2006), which makes for a total of seven years of data since it includes statistics collected in the last publication, which was released in 2004.

With seven years worth of data, WLDI was able to track trends and not only give states a grade based on most current performance, but also to give them a tier ranking” based on how they performed on average over the seven years, and whether they have an upward, downward or stable trend. There is data available for 43 states, plus Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Similar to past reports, the 2009 State Report Cards compare states on five different outcome measures for each year: incidence rates; cases missing work; median disability durations; delayed recovery rate; and key conditions: low back strain.

Iowa performed the best of all the states for 2006 and Minnesota came in a close second. Both states received a grade of “A+” based on an average of their 2006 scores in the five categories above.

Illinois came in last, with Wyoming, Rhode Island and New York very close to the bottom. In total, nine of the 43 states received a grade of “F” in 2006. WLDI prepared a summary of each grade for all states.

In terms of the tier ranking system, the Tier I states are Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia. Tier I means that the state had an average grade of “B+” or better, and a trend going up or level. Those five states were doing great and continuing to improve.

Eight states fell into the opposite category (Tier VI), which means they had an average grade of “D-” or worse, and a trend going down or level. The worst performers for the years 2000-2006 were: Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Wyoming. The report includes a summary of tier rankings for all states.

The full report is available for purchase from WLDI in both electronic and hardcopy formats

Work Loss Data Institute is an independent database development company focused on workplace health and productivity based in Encinitas, California.

via Report Card: Best, Worst States for Workers’ Compensation.

EDITORIAL: A flawed fire union contract – chicagotribune.com

Mayor Sly James and other City Council members have been patting themselves on the back recently for working out a new three-year pact with Kansas City’s powerful fire union. The council will approve it today.

The agreement is the council’s “most impressive achievement of the first year,” said councilman Dick Davis.

Sorry, but it’s not.

Start with this unsettling fact: The contract prohibits reducing the firefighting force beyond the 33 positions the city hopes to achieve soon through an overly expensive retirement incentive for senior union members. Regarding the lack of ability to control how many people work for taxpayers, City Manager Troy Schulte conceded to council members, “It does limit our flexibility.”

That’s correct, especially when personnel costs account for the great majority of Fire Department spending. And if tax revenues don’t pick up, Schulte may have to further slash spending and employees from other agencies while holding firefighters harmless.

The new pact also calls for a study on how the Fire Department provides ambulance service. So far, response times are too slow and paramedics are burdened with calls, thanks to an old-fashioned deployment model worked out by a fire-centric leadership.

Unfortunately, the agreement is silent on how the existing deployment model should be improved.

The new contract does help assure labor peace with the union. That’s important for elected officials, who get lobbied constantly by union leaders on all kinds of issues.

But the mayor and council should look out for the best interests of all Kansas Citians, not just firefighters, in putting these deals together. This one falls far short of being the council’s “most impressive achievement.” That’s setting the bar way too low.

via EDITORIAL: A flawed fire union contract – chicagotribune.com.

The Star’s editorial | New Kansas City fire union contract sets off alarms – KansasCity.com

The 163-page contract endorsed last week by Kansas City firefighters is stuffed with details that protect their wages, benefits and work conditions.

While work rules generally play a key role defending employees’ interests, this pact offers an inside look at a department used to getting its way, with not enough concern for citizens who pay the bills.

For example: Firefighters don’t have to inspect fire hydrants or train outside if they’re going to get wet and it’s hotter than 90 degrees or below 50 degrees. No non-emergency duties are expected from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. And the 24-hour-shift workdays essentially call for two days on, five days off, leaving plenty of time for second jobs.

Despite these favorable conditions, just weeks ago firefighters were steaming over plans to reduce their workforce. But now they have endorsed a pact that will last until mid-2015, largely because it saves most of their jobs.

Unfortunately, it does not adequately protect taxpayers, partly because city officials plan to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in special bonuses to a few dozen firefighters to get them to quit.

via The Star’s editorial | New Kansas City fire union contract sets off alarms – KansasCity.com.