MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The head of the Memphis Police Association is claiming the Wharton administration is dragging its feet in a continuing lawsuit over employee pay.
Some police department employees filed a lawsuit last year after their pay was cut by more than four and a half percent. Now, almost a year later, things might even get worse.
When the city needs to cut its budget, its employees are the one to feel every slice of the scissors. More than twenty percent of the entire budget goes to salaries and benefits for Memphis city employees.
They got a big pay cut last year and they're still fighting in court to get it back. But this year will be even tougher.
The logic was either employees take a pay cut of 4.6 percent, or let the layoffs begin. But employees claimed that while negotiating new contracts, they were told no raises were coming, but no pay cuts were either. That's why a lawsuit was filed.
Memphis Police Association Chief Mike Williams thinks the city is dragging its feet on this issue. For example, the unions have agreed to mediation in order to have a deal worked out without going to court. The city won't agree.
"Well it says to me, you may not want to work this out. You may want to drag it out. You may want to see if we can withstand, withhold, hold out, or we succumb because it's not going to get any better I'm hearing," he said. "I continually hear there's no money. But we continually see money being spent. It's all a choice on what they spend the money for."
He finds it wrong to spend taxpayer money to help fix up the Pyramid for a private company, or to build a parking garage, when the city won't spend taxpayer money to restore the city employee pay cut.
Williams added, "They choose to make decisions that they want to make and ultimately the employees and the citizens end up paying for it in the end."
This year, it's not going to get any better at all. The city is $40 million in the red right now, not the greatest time to start talking about giving back salary cuts.
"I know employees are very interested in restoration," stated George Little, the city's Chief Administrative Officer. "But we've got a number of challenges that we have to meet to really take that on."
The translation: don't hold your breath for getting that pay cut restored. In fact, there might come a time when employees look at their cut this year and say, 'Those were the good old days.' When a budget needs to be cut, the ax always seems to fall on the people working for the city for a living.
"About two thirds of the city's budget consists of personnel and employees. So it's hard to reduce the money in the city without touching on employees. And obviously they've taken a big hit, so it makes it even tougher this year," said Memphis City Council Member, Jim Strickland.
City union employees tried to use their clout at the polls last year to get rid of all those politicians that voted to cut their pay. They didn't succeed. But, Mike Williams said they will be watching every step of the budget plan this year.
City council members will hold a special budget meeting on Feb. 11th with Wharton administration members; the real fight begins in April.