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Orange County Digest

BUENA PARK : Police, Fire Groups to Protest Impasse

April 05, 1993|DEBRA CANO

In a repeat of last month's protest, Buena Park's police and fire associations vow to picket City Hall today to protest "unfair" labor negotiations.

Members of both employee groups say they will begin the protest at 3:30 p.m., in advance of the 5 p.m. meeting in which the City Council is to consider imposing a settlement. The two groups plan also to address the council during the scheduled public hearing on the labor talks.

"We hope to get our message out that (the city) is not being fair with us," said Jim Hayes, vice president of the Buena Park Police Assn.

Both employee groups are at impasse with the city. Their representatives called the bargaining "one-sided" and rejected the city's contract offers because of reductions in benefits and lack of pay increases.

The council tonight will consider "unilaterally implementing the concepts contained in (the city's) last, best and final offer."

"We've met in good faith with the associations for several months, and we reached the point where we submitted our best and final offer--and the associations have rejected the offer," said City Manager Kevin O'Rourke. "Because we were not able to resolve the issues through mediation . . . it's time for (the council) to now act on the recommendations" to approve the contracts.

O'Rourke said the city has a $2-million budget deficit, a result of revenue cuts from the state. In addition, he said, in July the city could face up to another $2 million in revenue losses.

O'Rourke said that as a result of the reductions in employee benefits, the city's budget deficit would be reduced by about $500,000.

"The bottom line is this is all financially driven," he said. "It's the City Council's desire to keep as many services in place and as many employees working as possible, using tax increases only as a last alternative."

Hayes said that if the council approves the police association's contract tonight without members' approval, there is a possibility the group will take legal action.

"We will use all legal methods within our reach," Hayes said. Police and fire association members turned out in force at the March 15 City Council meeting in their first protest of stalled negotiations.

Leaders of the unions said that members will not strike if their contracts are given council approval.

"We're not walking off the job," said David C. Dorn, president of the Buena Park Firemen's Assn. "I really hope we can go back and sit down and resolve the issues."

But O'Rourke said that going back to the bargaining table is a tactic by the associations to delay the inevitable, adding that it would only increase the likelihood of layoffs and tax hikes in order to shrink the city's deficit.

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