State to determine back pay owed Miami’s cops after cuts struck down

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Miami taxpayers will find out in the coming months exactly how much Miami’s police officers are owed in back pay after the city improperly slashed their benefits and pay in 2010 during a financial crisis.

The Florida Public Employees Relations Commission on Wednesday upheld a state hearing officer’s recommendation that the city restore the union contract that existed before officials unilaterally slashed compensation under Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police collective bargaining agreement during the Great Recession. The ruling follows the Florida Supreme Court’s decision this year striking down the city’s actions and remanding a legal challenge from the police union to the Public Employees Relations Commission, the state body tasked with handling labor disputes.

The next step, the commission said, is for the hearing officer to determine the extent of the back-pay owed.

City leaders have downplayed the likelihood of dire consequences, arguing that pay and benefits have increased significantly over the last seven years. But in a media release, union leader Javier Ortiz claimed the city, which also faces a challenge from its firefighters union, will owe more than $200 million to its employees.

“I ultimately blame Mayor [Tomás] Regalado for putting the City of Miami in this financial challenge,” Ortiz wrote in a media release.

Ortiz expects the state commission to determine back pay owed each of the individual officers who were subject to the city’s cuts, a process he believes could take months. The city, which does not owe attorneys fees, can appeal the state’s back-pay ruling once it comes out.

“We disagree with the order and will continue to defend the city’s position before the hearing officer,” City Attorney Victoria Mendez said.

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