CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Cape Coral's police officers and firefighters will be taking a pay cut as part of a new contract that was approved by the city council on Monday night.
The 6-2 vote came after months of negotiations, and a previous deal that was rejected last year under a different city council and city manager.
"It's give and take. Before it was take, take, take. And we were able to get rid of that," said Brendan Fonock, President of Cape Coral Professional Firefighters Local 2424.
Union officials say their members were willing to make concessions to help the struggling city budget, and were disappointed the council couldn't support the contracts unanimously.
"These are painful pay cuts that these members represent are taking, and for two elected officials not to agree... these are saving some big tax dollars," Fonock said.
Mayor John Sullivan and council member Chris Chulakes-Leetz opposed the contracts, saying the cuts were not equal to what the general employees union accepted last year.
"Our lowest wage employees took a 50 percent greater pay cut than our public safety employees," Chulakes-Leetz said.
General employees took a three-percent pay cut, and contribute two-percent more to their pensions. Police and firefighters took a two-percent pay cut, and a three-percent pension contribution increase.
Union negotiators say it was the best way to create savings.
"They actually found the three percent contribution increase in the pension actually saves the city more money in the long run," Fonock said.
"The easiest thing to do for an administration is to cut somebody's pay and say, hey I won. That isn't the case here. The employees are all willing to work with the city," said council member Marty McClain, who supported the contracts.
But Chulakes-Leetz felt council members weren't kept fully informed during negotiations, and believes the city was hurt in the process.
"The savings for today was miniscule compared to the long-term damage that was created," Chulakes-Leetz said.
All sides agreed to continue talks about benefits, particularly the city's pension program.