Those familiar with the city budget also deny that the award is significantly larger than the administration expected — quite the opposite. They say, and the budget appears to show, that the funds had already been accounted for almost entirely, even through the 2011 projections.
In fact, briefs and arguments from the arbitration process show that the city was not claiming an inability to pay up — even with regards to the higher, 21 percent raise sought by the union. Menino officials, speaking on background, likewise do not dispute that the city has the money to pay the firefighters’ contract.
The city does, however, have legitimate concerns about the long-term effect of this award on other city labor contracts. (The first negotiation meeting for the next Boston Police Patrolman’s Association is scheduled for next week.) But that argument, and others, failed to persuade the arbitrators, in a process Menino not only agreed to, but requested, rather than continuing negotiations.
Any burdens posed by the contract represent a failure of five years worth of negotiations, which Menino is trying to lay at the feet of the City Council. As more than one observer notes, Menino’s current belief in the importance of Council review and possible rejection of contracts is at odds with his attitude when the firefighter contract was signed in 2004. That time, he called the Council in over a weekend to rubber-stamp it, to prevent the union from picketing that coming week’s Democratic National Convention events.
Today, it appears that councilors, like others, are no longer willing to jump at Menino’s command. They seem ready to not only approve the contract, but to use the hearings to fight back against Menino’s claims that it will blow a huge hole in the budget. Menino’s cries of poormouth are sounding more and more like crying wolf.
To read the “Talking Politics” blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.