Detroit police union going to court to stave off 10 percent pay cut

DETROIT Mon Jul 16, 2012 4:19pm EDT

Detroit Police Officers work behind the front desk at the Northeastern District police station in Detroit, Michigan, January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Detroit Police Officers work behind the front desk at the Northeastern District police station in Detroit, Michigan, January 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit's police union will file an appeal with Michigan courts to keep the city from cutting officers' pay by 10 percent, the Detroit Police Officers Association said on Monday.

Detroit police and firefighters are among some 10,700 city workers, represented by 48 unions, who face deep pay cuts and healthcare benefit changes imposed by Mayor Dave Bing without negotiations.

Bing is trying to save the city $102 million. A city financial advisory board approved Bing's 10 percent pay cut proposals last week.

In March, the city extracted agreements with most of the 48 unions that saves an estimated $68 million. But the state of Michigan decided that was not enough to help bail Detroit out of its financial mess, which includes a multimillion-dollar budget deficit and $7.9 billion in long-term debt.

Joe Duncan, president of the 2,075-member Detroit Police Officers Association (DPOA), said police have already given the city enough concessions, including changes to pension benefits last year.

"What type of individual are you going to have applying to be a police officer in Detroit when we are already 50th on the list of pay for the biggest 50 cities in the Unites States?" Duncan told Reuters. "We want the right to negotiate."

The pay cut issue may come before the city council on Tuesday.

Duncan said the court filing will seek to overturn a Court of Claims judge's decision last week not to extend a temporary injunction that kept police officers' pay from being cut.

Until recently, police and firefighters were exempt from the city employee layoffs that have been used to cut Detroit's expenses. An April 4 consent agreement between the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit allows Bing to impose cuts on workers whose contracts expire.

The contract expired on June 30 for the police officers' union as well as about half of the 48 city unions. The contract for the firefighters does not expire until next year.

Duncan said Detroit police officers start at a annual salary of about $33,000 and top out at $53,253 by their sixth year on the job.

"You have someone with six years experience as a police officer and someone with 30 years experience making the same thing," Duncan said. Police lieutenants make 39 percent more than police officers now, and sergeants make 24 percent more.

Duncan said the danger police officers face makes their case unique although he appreciates that the city is in financial crisis and all city workers need to accept cuts. Since 1977, Duncan said, 39 officers have been killed while working for the city.

(Reporting By Bernie Woodall; editing by John Wallace)

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