The mayor addressed the Downtown Rotary Club on Monday, April 4th, and when asked about the status of the city pension system, he talked about spiking. He did state the pensions were funded and the system was healthy so why bring up spiking in this venue? Was this a seemingly benign comment? Who knows what his intent was when he made the comment.
The city is about to enter into labor negotiations with the 3 unions representing general, police and fire non-management employees. Incite the public against public employees and their benefits? I hope not.
Discussions regarding the city’s position and the union’s position at the bargaining table are tightly held within the confines of the bargaining table and are not discussed in the public arena. Why then does the mayor bring up the issue of spiking of pensions in a public meeting?
The term “spiking” is not easily understood by the general public. The term itself causes people to grimace and question what is going on. It is a complicated issue dealing with employee benefits and what constitutes annual compensation. You can rail against unions and their impact to the workplace, but it doesn’t change the fact the majority of city employees are represented by a collective bargaining agreement with the City of Sioux Falls.
Many changes have been made over the years regarding the impact spiking has on the general operating budget and the pension benefit. Significant changes were made in 1981, 1983 and in 1997 and, at times, created very heated discussions between management and labor at the bargaining table. Is there room for more change? Probably, but the public setting is not where you begin the discussion when you are bound by collective bargaining laws both at the state and the federal level.
The bottom line is…. Employee benefits are a mandatory subject of bargaining. Pension benefits and what defines annual compensation are subject to city ordinance and state law whereby any change to the pension benefit requires an actuary study and a vote of the membership in the pension system.
That's why it’s a head scratcher that the mayor brought the subject of spiking up in a public forum at a time when he will be sending officials to the bargaining table to bargain for wages, hours and conditions of employment with its non-management employees represented by 3 separate unions.
The mayor should quit talking about what he thinks is wrong with employee benefits at this most inopportune time. This is one area where his “business acumen” and corporate business background in marketing and banking don’t bring anything to the table of experience in city collective bargaining with unions.