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After court win, Miami-Dade police union asks county to pay up over impasse

@doug_hanks

MIami-Dade's police union recently succeeded in having Mayor Carlos Gimenez's 2012 veto of a labor contract declared illegal. And now the union wants a refund of the money Miami-Dade saved from that veto.

"Please consider this letter a demand for payment," union chief John Rivera wrote to Gimenez on Sept. 14. Rivera asked for the thousands of police employees to receive refunds on the 4-percent payroll deduction Gimenez succeeded in briefly imposing following the 2012 veto. Rivera estimated the refund would cost about $9 million, depending on whether interest is imposed.

Read Rivera's letter here.

The Gimenez administration plans to fight the demand before a state labor board. Gimenez lost a larger legal battle last week when the state Supreme Court refused an appeal over a lower court's decision limiting the mayor's veto power in labor talks.

While the county mayor can veto most votes by the County Commission, courts ruled he loses that authority when it comes a labor impasse. An impasse is declared when the administration and a union can't agree on a contract, and then turn to the commission to resolve it.   

In 2012, Gimenez vetoed a contract measure that lacked a 5 percent paycheck deduction designed to lower the county's healthcare costs. The deduction was a key demand by Gimenez during labor talks with county unions.  As a compromise, commissioners imposed a 4 percent deduction, which Gimenez supported.

The 4 percent deduction was imposed on all union employees, and was on top of an additional 5 percent deduction instituted several years earlier as Miami-Dade grappled with plunging property-tax revenues. While the original 5 percent deduction died in 2014 by commission vote, the extra 4 percent expired at the end of the 2012 budget year. 

Rivera's letter requests refunds for the "4 percent of the salaries that was ultimately imposed and illegally taken from our bargaining unit members from January 2012 through September 30, 2012, plus interest at a lawful rate." 

The Gimenez administration had no comment on the Supreme Court ruling or Rivera's letter. The budget office confirmed Rivera's rough cost estimate, and said the dollars would need to come from the county's health-insurance fund and then recouped by future rate increases if the union wins.

The big worry at County Hall: the police union wins, then other unions make claims on their own payroll deductions from 2012. The price tag on that claim would be about $35 million.

County lawyers maintain the other unions missed their chance to file a complaint over the veto, with only the police group filing within the allotted time in 2012. But should the police union secure a payout, commissioners could be under pressure to issue rebates to other unions as a matter of fairness. 

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