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Judge Not Happy With Detroit Fire Fighters Association’s Objections to Pension Plan Restructuring

Wooden gavel barrister, justice conceptA judge has gotten into a heated battle with Detroit firefighters over a renewed pension plan for active employees. The Detroit Fire Fighters Association wants to ensure that new pension plans will not be instituted for active employees, while Judge Steven Rhodes argues that the city needs to get financially stable — and their request isn’t helping.

Attorney for the Fire Fighters Association, Christopher Legghio, argues that in trying to install new pension plans, the city is violating collective bargaining laws. Rhodes argues that, “The city needs some time to be able to predict with some degree of certainty what its obligations are, yes?”

The fight is part of a series of ongoing issues the city has had to deal with thanks to the legal ramifications of Detroit’s bankruptcy restructuring plan. The city has to cut down its unsecured debt, and reinvest $1.4 billion in services over the next 10 years. The city has proposed a complex formula for re-calculating the value of active pension plans across various departments. Detroit’s largest police union has already chosen to accept the deal.

Legghio claims that the city is moving into martial law, and says that, “This court has no authority to suspend the duty to bargain for 10 years.” Detroit’s attorney, Heather Lennox, said that “These are extraordinary times in a fiscal emergency” and that “There is an implication that we are trying to wholesale take away collective bargaining rights, and that is simply not the case.”

It’s possible that, as restructuring continues, the city will eventually offer a better deal to the association so that a settlement can be reached. It is unlikely that this case will be influenced by legislative intent, in which courts judge a statute in question by referencing previous historical documents and cases.

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