ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–More talks aimed at breaking the impasse in firefighter’s pension reform are scheduled for this afternoon with a hint of hope in the breeze.
The negotiations involving representatives of the mayor’s office, the firefighter’s union, a fraternal order of black firefighters, members of the board of aldermen and the city personnel director are scheduled to get underway at 1:30 at Firefighters Local 73 union hall in the Bevo Mill neighborhood.
Last week, a similar meeting in the mayor’s office lasted five hours and several pizzas with no agreement reached.
So far, a major sticking point has been what the mayor’s office calls “local control” — ending state oversight of the pension system. The firefighters union has labelled that “complete control” and fought against it.
On Friday, Firefighters Local 73 President Chris Molitor told KMOX that the union would consider ending state oversight, but only with strong local checks and balances to prevent the mayor’s office from raiding the pension system.
Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and Public Safety Committee Chairman Greg Carter both say ending state oversight would not necessarily be a “deal killer,” if firefighters can give their blessing to such an arrangement.
Carter, who has the power to hold up Slay’s pension reform bills in committee, says he will continue to sit on the bills unless he learns that “all parties involved” have reached an agreement they can live with.
“If you pass these bills out in their present form, the firefighters are going to walk across the street and put an injunction on these bills that will lock the bills up for the next two to four years if not longer,” said Carter.
From a practical standpoint, Carter says city taxpayers can’t afford to fund soaring firefighter pension obligations while waiting for a court case to be settled.
Mayor Slay’s office has urged quick passage of a deal before the aldermen leave for spring break later this month. But Carter says that’s a false deadline meant to stoke concessions. Carter contends the aldermen can work on the problem when they return from spring break with enough time to pass a bill before the fiscal year ends June 30th.
“This is only March,” Carter.