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Detroit slashes pay for some police, firefighter unions

Detroit firefighters park their ladder truck in front of their southwest Detroit fire house in Detroit, Michigan July 23, 2013. REUTERS/ Reb
Detroit firefighters park their ladder truck in front of their southwest Detroit fire house in Detroit, Michigan July 23, 2013. REUTERS/ Reb

By Joseph Lichterman

DETROIT (Reuters) - About 1,200 Detroit police lieutenants and sergeants and about 400 Detroit firefighters will see a 10 percent pay cut in their paychecks on September 16, a spokesman for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said on Thursday.

The city informed the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association (LSA) and the Detroit Firefighters Association of the pay cut along with a reduction in benefits on Wednesday.

The Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association's contract was slated to be terminated on July 6, but the city extended the contract for 30 days.

Orr's spokesman, Bill Nowling, said the contract was extended to give new Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who started July 1, "an opportunity to get his feet on the ground."

The firefighter union's contract expired June 30, but the 400 affected firefighters -- lieutenants, sergeants and captains -- have parity with the Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, so their contract was also subject to the delay.

Nowling said the city notified the unions in June that the cuts would occur once the contracts expired. He said the city will take 30 days to process the changes into its payroll system.

The pay cuts will mean police lieutenants will be paid about $7,000 less and sergeants will earn about %6,000 less, said Mark Young, president of the LSA.

"We understand that the city is in financial distress," Young said. "The past leadership of the city government drove us here, but we were hoping that the hardship wouldn't be so great on the men and women that I represent that haven't had a raise in four and a half years."

Aside from the pay cut, the new contract also makes changes to sick leave accrual, overtime payments and paid time off.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing implemented the same cuts last August for patrol officers and most firefighters. Non-uniformed city employees also took a 10 percent pay cut at that time.

The cuts will save the city $4.5 million annually, Nowling said. The unions hope to meet with the city to discuss the changes, Young said, but Nowling noted the changes are already adopted in the city's fiscal year 2014 budget.

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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