Firefighters' group are fighting Schmoke's furlough plan in courts.


January 28, 1992|By Norris P. West

Baltimore's police and firefighter unions want state and federal courts to block Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's plans to furlough their members for five days by forcing them to give up paid holidays.

Lodge 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Baltimore for a permanent injunction against the city to prevent the mayor from imposing the five unpaid furlough days.

Meanwhile, Baltimore City Fire Fighters Local 734 is awaiting a hearing in two weeks before Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Kathleen O'FerrallFriedman on its argument that the furloughs violate a consent judgment she issued in December.

The police union's complaint charges that Mayor Schmoke's plan breaches the bargaining unit's contract with the city and violates the U.S. Constitution and federal labor laws. The city counters that the General Assembly has approved the budget-cutting measures.

The plan, announced by the mayor Jan. 13, will deduct a half day's pay from the salaries of police officers and the rest of the city's 26,000 employees for 10 pay periods. In effect, workers will not be paid for five holidays -- Good Friday, Memorial Day and the birthdays of Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

City workers should notice the effect of Mayor Schmoke's plan tomorrow, when they receive their first reduced pay checks.

The FOP suit seeks to reverse the furlough plan for city police officers, agents, flying officers, sergeants and lieutenants. But union attorney Herbert R. Weiner said, "I suppose if we are successful, other city workers would want to follow in our footsteps."

Mr. Weiner said the FOP was upset because the mayor's plan forces its members to surrender the paid holidays in a fiscal year in which they've already had to forgo raises as the city deals with a financial crunch.

"It's something that had to be done," said Mr. Weiner.

The complaint said the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees to be paid at regular rates for 40 hours and 1 1/2 times the regular rates for overtime. It said the four-hour reduction in pay for each two-week period would infringe on overtime pay for officers because they would be paid the regular rate for the first four hours worked beyond their normal schedules.

The suit also said Schmoke's plan violates the city's union contract and a constitutional prohibition on any "state" from impairing the obligation of contracts.

Firefighters said the furloughs would reduce their annual salaries by 2 percent. In December, Judge Friedman had issued consent judgment that required them to forgo a 6 percent pay increase in their contract. She is now being asked to rule that the city has violated her judgment after listening to arguments scheduled Feb. 10.

Deputy City Solicitor Ambrose T. Hartman said today that the Maryland Attorney General's interpretation of action taken last year by the General Assembly allows the city to reduce negotiated salaries to alleviate its budget problems.

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