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Nik Kovac
stated on September 30, 2014 in a TV interview:
Milwaukee police and firefighters "are routinely getting 4 percent raises annually while everybody else is either getting zero or one percent raises."  
true false
By Dave Umhoefer October 9, 2014

Alderman Nik Kovac says police, fire workers routinely get 4% raises

Some city employees would get a New Year’s gift under a proposal by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to soften Act 10’s effect on their pocketbooks.

After losing a legal fight, the city is complying with Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 collective-bargaining law and will begin deducting pension contributions from those workers not already making them.

To help offset the pension contributions, Barrett wants to give 3.9 percent raises for general city employees. The plan, which carries a price tag of $4.8 million, would not apply to police and firefighters. They were exempted from the provisions of Act 10.

City officials say most fire and police personnel pay little or nothing toward their pensions and -- unlike most other city employees -- still can negotiate over benefits and pay.

East Side Alderman Nik Kovac said Barrett’s plan for raises seems reasonable.

And in a Sept. 30, 2014 Fox6 TV interview, Kovac addressed the disparities between different groups of city employees under Act 10.

Police and fire officials "are routinely getting 4 percent raises annually while everybody else is either getting a zero or 1 percent raise," Kovac said. "That imbalance, the longer it continues, is going to hurt morale and make it harder and harder to run the city in a fair manner."

Four percent vs. nothing? Routinely? That got our attention.

On Facebook, a few firefighters pushed back on Kovac’s claim, saying they have not seen a raise in two or three years.

"Nic, where are you getting 4% annually?" a Fire Department employee commented. "This is not just misleading, it’s wrong."

What are the real numbers?

When we asked Kovac for backup, he said he spoke off the cuff with the TV reporter.

In doing so, he misspoke.

After checking the recent history of raises with the city budget office, Kovac said he should not have said "routine" or "annual" in regards to 4 percent raises for police and fire.

Maria Monteagudo, the city’s employee relations director, sent us the base pay increases for city employees back to 1991.

Here are the percentage raises from 2010 to present. (Fire and police unions ratified contracts for 2010-2012 after Act 10 took effect in 2011).













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*Patrol officers received another $575 per year

**Contract negotiations ongoing


In 2012, firefighters and police received raises in the 4 percent range while general employees received nothing. But that was a one-year blip.

With that exception, across-the-board raises have been small or nonexistent for all city employees dating to 2010, the year before Act 10.

One important note: For 2013 and 2014, public safety employees have not yet negotiated a contract with the city. So while they have received nothing so far, they could still receive raises retroactively once a contract agreement is reached.

General city workers and managers received small raises for those two years. That was done without collective bargaining for most of those workers, because the largest labor union representing city employees was not recertified under Act 10 rules, Monteagudo said.

Before 2010, city employees of all types typically got 2 percent to 3 percent raises with small variations. Unionized workers typically were around the top of that range, with non-represented managers closer to the low end.

Within the union ranks since 2007, police and fire raises have outstripped those for general workers.

Mandatory furloughs, including of police and fire workers, have cut further into pay. Barrett’s 2015 budget would eliminate furloughs for non-uniformed workers, while their future use for police and fire workers would depend on the outcome of labor negotiations.

Our rating

Kovac said police and fire workers "are routinely getting 4 percent raises annually while everybody else is either getting zero or one percent raises."

That scenario was seen in 2012, but so far has not reappeared. Uniformed workers have had a leg up on general employees since Act 10, but only marginally in a time of austerity.

We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Fox6, report on city pensions, Sept. 30, 2014

Interview with Ald. Nik Kovac, Oct. 3, 2014

Email interview with Maria Monteagudo, director of city Department of Employee Relations

Journal Sentinel archives

City of Milwaukee, labor contracts archive

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Dave Umhoefer

Alderman Nik Kovac says police, fire workers routinely get 4% raises

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