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Tampa city employees should give back raises

Because of a contract negotiation impasse, some Tampa employees may be getting pay raises that the city can’t afford, and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio wants them to pay it back.

The city council approved a budget last month with no provisions for raises. However, the city has not settled on new contracts with unions representing police, fire and other employees. That means the expired contracts are still in effect while the old contracts allowed for raises.

The unions should concede, and any members who receive these unintended raises should return them.

Unions were willing to give up the cost-of-living increase, but police and fire unions wanted to keep merit and step increases, which are based on years and level of service. They are assessed yearly on the anniversary of each employee’s hiring, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Between the time the contracts expire and the city and unions settle on new ones, only a few employees will be arbitrarily eligible for these raises. According to the Tampa Tribune, Iorio wants employees who receive the raises to give them back. If they don’t, she’ll make up for it through payroll deductions.

“If the unions do not agree to the payback provisions, the city council will be asked to implement it when they decide on a new contract,” Iorio said to the Tribune. “This prevents inequities, which I don’t think anyone wants.”

The unions should be willing to give up these raises. Only some of their members will receive them, and since the city did not budget for them, they will be hard to afford. City officials estimated that the cost of giving out a year’s worth of merit raises to the 2,800 eligible employees would be $4.4 million.

This situation would not have happened if the unions had reached a compromise before the contracts expired. They should not be rewarded at the city’s expense. Paying out the raises may lead to layoffs, so even the few employees who would receive it should reject the raise.

Leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1465, which represents about 2,000 city employees, told the Tribune most employees would forgo cost of living and merit raises to stay employed.

“We’re trying to save jobs, not increase wages,” said Mike Young, ATU’s secretary.

The fire and police unions should follow ATU’s example and give up merit raises. It would be in the best interest of the city and the unions to return the raises.