In a move designed to prod negotiations with Los Angeles police and firefighters, the City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to an ordinance that would freeze health benefits of retiring workers.
The 11-2 vote advances a measure that caps retirees' monthly health-care allowance at $1,097, beginning July 1. The move would save taxpayers an estimated $68 million per year, according to a report by the city administrative officer.
The vote came amid ongoing closed-door talks between the city and unions representing the Police and Fire departments. The city wants police officers and firefighters to contribute part of their salaries toward retirement health care - something that most of the other city unions have already agreed to.
"We're in a tough world and I think this is an excellent way to move forward," Councilman Bill Rosendahl said. "This is the best interest of everyone. We are investing in ourselves."
The measure was opposed by council members Richard Alarcón and Janice Hahn, who said further negotiations are needed.
Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said he needed more time to review the measure.
"We've been talking for months and this is brand new," Weber said. "We need to study what it will mean."
However, he previously had urged the council to continue talks before adopting a position.
"We are still in negotiations and we ask you to give us a couple of weeks to resolve this," Weber said. "If you adopt a proposal today, our members will see it as bad faith negotiations."
As they struggle to close a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, city officials have said they want to cap overtime pay for LAPD officers at 96 hours a year instead of the 400 they are now allowed to accrue.
"If the city does that, it's the equivalent of 1,000 officers," Weber said.
Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, also opposes efforts to impose a contract on the union.
"This is a takeaway from the union," McOsker said. "We have not had an adequate time to sit down at the table and negotiate this."