Union presidents call city pension plan a 'scare tactic' - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Union presidents call city pension plan a 'scare tactic'

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They say it is a scare tactic the city administration is using to change the pension plan and put more of the financial burden on city employees. They say it is a scare tactic the city administration is using to change the pension plan and put more of the financial burden on city employees.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The presidents of the Memphis police and fire unions are up in arms over a new report that calls the current city pension fund unsustainable.

They say it is a scare tactic the city administration is using to change the pension plan and put more of the financial burden on city employees.

The city recently reversed a 4.6 percent pay cut just weeks ago. But as the City of Memphis ended one clash with police and fire unions, a new battle is rearing its head.

Union leaders say the city's new plan to reform the city employee pension system is an even bigger battle than the recent salary fight.

"All we're hearing is about killings and murders and robberies and rapes, yet you want to cut police services?" said Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams. 

City Chief Administrative Officer George Little says the pension's unfunded liability is growing faster than taxpayers can afford.

"The [pension] plan that we have right now is not sustainable, certainly not without an increase in taxes or cuts in services," said Little.

The city is leaning toward a pension system that functions more like a 401k plan.

"They want to place the burden of the fund itself on the employees," said Williams. 

The unions say if the city changes the plan retirees would have to rely too much on the unstable stock market, which they believe would cause a revolving door.

"What is to keep anybody here if somebody down the road comes up with a better package?  They take their stuff and leave and go with them," said Memphis Fire Association President Thomas Malone.

Little says the State of Tennessee is concerned about the current pension model and that market conditions are forcing cities around the country to make a change.

"Even the State of Tennessee recently moved to a hybrid plan. We feel our salary and benefits are competitive," he said. 

The unions say that is not a sustainable option for their members.

"We're going to have 80-year-old fire fighters? 80-year-old police officers? I don't think the citizens of Memphis are prepared for this," said Malone. 

This is just the beginning of the conversation. The city will meet with union leaders Friday and talk with the City Council October 1.

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