Tulsa City Hall and Unions Reach Budget Deal

Thursday, June 25th 2009, 10:18 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The City of Tulsa reached an agreement with the three of its city employee unions late Thursday afternoon.  The agreement satisfies the issues created by cuts made to the budget, giving every employee a reduction in pay or benefits. 

The challenge was to cut pay while minimizing the impact to both the employees and the public.  That came together with a deal to spread the pay cut evenly over the year, and in the case of the fire department, giving them the option of swapping out benefits instead of cash on their paycheck.  The result is the same: a cut of a little more than 3%.

The deal ended months of talks and a full week of intense negotiations over how to cut the budget.

06/19/2009 Related Story: City of Tulsa's New Budget Includes Furloughs

"It was difficult negotiation.  It was a difficult conversation to have.  It's difficult to ask employees to provide the same service yet reduce their pay by over 3%," said Mayor Kathy Taylor.

The contracts call for an equal reduction in compensation for all of the union members.  Essentially, it's unpaid time off equaling 64 hours of work.

Most city employees take the first furlough day on July 2nd, but police and fire will have the flexibility of scheduling their days throughout the year.

"Our situation is a little bit different and we can't schedule furlough days as city hall can and just close down, so we'll be giving more thought to how that looks," said Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer.

The fire department union chose to swap out benefits rather than take an outright cut in salary, but the bottom line is still the same 3% cut in compensation.

"Rather than just take furlough days, which would take our guys off the street, we exchanged about $2 million worth of benefits and we turned those into vacation days, that way we can schedule our furlough days as vacation yet the city still gets the same financial benefit," said Fire Union negotiator Stan May.

The unions will take this contract to their membership for approval and they hope to have that finished by next week.