The simmering debate between the City of San Antonio and its police and fire associations threatens to explode into open warfare, after City Manager Sheryl Sculley unilaterally made the decision as part of her proposed 2015 budget plan, to move uniformed employees away from their 'no fee' health plans, and onto the same health plan which civilian city employees are granted, Newsradio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board reports.
Sculley said she is allowed to make this change under the current collective bargaining agreement, something San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele disputed.
"In order for them to change anything that we do, they are going to have to bargain it," Steele said. "They just can't change it, so we are going to have to go to court over it."
Sculley has maintained for months that the current police and fire health plans, which require the uniformed employees to pay nothing toward their and their family's health care, is in danger of 'crowding out' all of the other items the city pays for in its budget, from streets to libraries, to Sculley's $400,000 a year salary.
Sculley says making this change, and requiring uniformed employees to pay a portion of their health coverage, just like civilian city employees and private sector workers have to pay, will save the city about $2700 per employee per year.
"We're asking them to contribute toward the cost of their health care, just like everybody in the city does," Sculley said.
But Steele says those health care plans are negotiated benefits, and he points out that police and firefighters over the decades have given up salary increases and other benefits at the bargaining table to preserve that benefit.
"The City Manager is not telling the truth by saying that a 13 member task force made this recommendation," Steele said. "That task force did not make these recommendations, they have said that from the beginning."
The San Antonio Police Officers Association has also accused Sculley of 'lying' about the budget, and the need for police and firefighter benefit cuts.
Under state law, the Associations are not 'unions' in the traditional sense, and are not allowed to strike. But 'blue flu' and other negotiating tactics have been used in the past by Texas public safety associations.