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Unions Agree to No Raises, Increased Pension Contributions

New agreements will help county manage "difficult years ahead" without layoffs.

Sheriff's deputies, firefighters and some other union employees will not face layoffs over the next three years in return for foregoing raises and increased pension contributions for new hires, according to a new labor deal with Baltimore County.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25, Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters, as well as American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents county employees in skilled trade and laborer positions.

Three unions representing county police officers, corrections officers and public health nurses are not included in the agreement.

"I applaud the leaders of these labor organizations for recognizing that there is no more important issue facing government today than the creation of a benefit structure that is affordable and sustainable," said Kamenetz in a statement released Tuesday.  "I am very proud that Baltimore County has been the leader in the nation demonstrating that real change regarding very tough fiscal issues is possible working hand-in-hand with labor and not against labor. These agreements will help Baltimore County navigate the very difficult years ahead."

Under the terms of the agreement, all three unions will forgo cost of living raises through June 30, 2014.

Employees will continue to receive scheduled increment and longevity increases.

Employees covered by the three unions that are hired after July 1 will also have to make larger contributions to their pensions.

New deputies will contribute 10 percent of their salary toward their pension—a 2 percent increase over the rate paid by current employees.

New firefighters will also contribute 10 percent to their retirement—up from 8.5 percent.

Other county employees covered by the agreement will pay between 4.4 and 8.7 percent of their salaries toward their retirement.

The new contracts extend the agreement on health care benefits reached in 2010.

"You can't control the future growth of government without controlling health care costs," said Kamenetz in the statement. "We will continue to take the necessary steps to make sure that our employees have quality health care coverage by recognizing that proactive cost-containment strategies actually protect county workers. We are proving that you can value labor and take care of the taxpayer at the same time. Those two things are not mutually exclusive."

All of the contracts are subject to ratification by the members of each respective union.

Cole Weston, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, which represents police officers not covered by the agreements announced Tuesday, said his union was "not in a position to negotiate a multi-year agreement while we're still in the middle of a multi-year agreement."

The police and fire unions both negotiated two-year agreements last year.

Weston said his union was not willing to negotiate on pension changes while it is still putting into effect changes negotiated in the current contract.

"Quite frankly, we haven't seen the results of those changes yet," Weston said. "It's too early."

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