The Anne Arundel County government recently negotiated mutually agreeable contracts with 12 of the 13 unions that represent our workers during labor union talks. The Local 1563 International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) would have been the 13th, but we could not come to a successful agreement.

The IAFF rejected the county administration's proposal for a two-year contract that provided the return to a three-shift, 48 hour work week effective January 1, 2014. The proposal included a 14.3 percent pay increase, a 3 percent merit increase on the employee's anniversary date and a 3 percent cost of living increase. The IAFF currently works a four-shift, 42 hour work week, which leaves the fourth shift to be staffed mostly by using overtime. The union agreed to a tentative agreement after the administration added a sixth year of eligibility to the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).


Under the DROP program, employees who are eligible to retire can keep working and receiving their salaries while they bank their pension benefits. The county's public safety workers are currently allowed to do that for up to five years.

Contract negotiations with the fire union went to binding arbitration in which the county administration and the union submitted their best and final offers to the arbitrator. The administration's offer was the same as the tentative agreement, including the sixth year of the DROP. The union's best and final offer called for retaining a four-shift schedule and did not include a sixth year of the DROP. The arbitrator awarded in favor of the IAFF, meaning they will keep the fourth shift, and the county will be forced to hire 85-100 additional fire fighters to eliminate the need for overtime. Working excessive hours of overtime is a safety issue for our fire fighters, paramedics and ultimately the citizens they serve.

Meanwhile, my administration had introduced legislation to make members of the county's four other public safety unions eligible for a sixth year of the DROP program. But the IAFF circumvented the collective bargaining process by requesting that the County Council add an amendment to that bill making its members eligible for the sixth year, too.

The legislation was intended and written to fulfill the terms of successful collective bargaining negotiations with other public safety labor unions. The amendment adding a non-negotiated provision for the IAFF to receive the sixth year in DROP changes the intent of the bill.

For that reason, I will veto the legislation (Bill 56-13). The IAFF rejected the county's proposal to provide its members with a sixth year of DROP eligibility and omitted it from their best and final offer in binding arbitration.

When I took office, I made a promise to the County Council and to the residents of Anne Arundel County that I would not shy away from challenges and that the decisions that I make will be above board, transparent and prudent. The amendment to allow the IAFF's members to receive a sixth year of DROP undermines the labor relations process of contract negotiations.

I offer my thanks to the 12 labor unions that negotiated and came to an agreement with the administration, and I will re-introduce Bill 56-13 to the County Council as it was originally written. This allows the four public safety unions that collectively bargained and came to good faith agreements with the administration to expand their eligibility in the DROP to a sixth year.

Laura Neuman, a Republican, is Anne Arundel County executive. Her email is