This page contains news for the period July 29, 2001 through July 31, 2001.
July 2001 >>
Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Milwaukee city new union contract would
include all couples
A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
report that the city's largest union on Monday approved a new two-year contract for the
second time, but this one has a better chance with the Common Council because it extends
health benefits to all unmarried couples, not just same-sex ones.
About 60% of the 1,270 members of District Council 48 of the
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who voted Monday voted in
favor of the contract, said bargaining committee chairman John Garland.
"The big job comes now," Garland said after the
vote. "We've done our part; now we hope (the Common Council) does their part."
A tight vote is expected when the council takes up the
contract later this week.
In May, aldermen rejected the deal, which included only
same-sex benefits, on a 9-8 vote.
Officials believe that the new deal, which city negotiators
struck fearing that an arbitration loss would lead to even higher pay raises, will win
council approval. By extending the benefits to all unmarried couples, aldermen who opposed
the previous contract on the grounds that it was unfair have little room to argue that
Backers on the Common Council said extending health, dental
and funeral leave to same-sex partners of city workers would cost about $60,000 a year.
They have put the same price tag on providing the benefits to all unmarried couples
because the original calculation was based on the experience of Madison and other cities
that provide the benefits to all.
"This shows that AFSCME and its members have made the
good-faith effort to keep costs down for the City of Milwaukee," Ald. Mike D'Amato
said Monday evening. "Now it's our turn as the council to act in good faith and pass
this contract once and for all."
Critics counter that the cost actually will be much higher
because the AFSCME contract typically becomes a pattern for all unions representing
general city workers. One estimate put the cost at about $220,000 a year when applied
across the board.
Ald. Tom Nardelli predicted that if approved by the council,
the contract would become a costly bureaucratic and fiscal nightmare for Milwaukee
"How do we know where a relationship begins and ends?
How does one verify who is partners with whom?" Nardelli asked. "It really is a
question of how one maintains a record of a relationship that is absent a license.
Aides to Mayor John O. Norquist and supporters on the council
argue the risk to taxpayers is great if the council rejects the deal again. If AFSCME then
pursues the matter all the way to an arbitrator's decision, and wins the percentage raises
it seeks there, it would cost taxpayers $1.5 million more a year if the same raises then
go to all general city workers.
At least two aldermen - Jeff Pawlinski and Terrance Herron -
have said they are open to voting for the new agreement. The council's Finance and
Personnel Committee is to take it up Wednesday, with the full council to vote Thursday.
Girlfriend of British trooper to sue for
A story released today by the Associated Newspapers Ltd.
reports that the girlfriend of a British SAS trooper killed during the rescue of six
kidnapped British soldiers in Sierra Leone is set to sue the Ministry of Defense unless it
makes proper provision for her and their daughter.
Tony Blair is said to be so worried about the potential bad
publicity that he has become personally involved in the negotiations over a pension for
Anna Homsi, who lived with Trooper Brad Tinnion, 28.
The SAS is backing her case to get the same pension as would
any widow of a soldier killed in action. The MoD says this is impossible under the current
rules, but remains "sympathetic to Miss Homsi's position".
Miss Homsi, 30, had been with Mr. Tinnion for 10 years and
was pregnant with his daughter Georgia, now eight years old, when he was killed.
Even though Homsi was named as the chief beneficiary in
the trooper's will, she is entitled to nothing and was only granted a one-off
discretionary payment of £20,000. She said: "We are looking into legal action on the
grounds that I did not get the same benefit as a married partner. We are in discussions
with the MoD."
Liberal Democrat defense spokesman Paul Keetch asked Mr.
Blair last month to examine why the MoD had not asked for dispensation to pay Miss Homsi
the equivalent of a widow's pension.
"Brad gave his life for his country. Surely the
Government should make sure that the people he cared for most are looked after?" he
The Prime Minister told the Commons that he would investigate
the matter and praised Mr. Tinnion as "an extraordinarily brave young man."
The increasing number of service men and women who live with
partners outside of marriage is gradually forcing the armed forces to confront a number of
social problems. There is much discussion within the services as to whether unmarried
couples are entitled to the same housing and pension rights as their married colleagues.
The Royal Navy, which has many sailors in long-term unmarried
relationships, has been pressing for them to be treated as if they were wed, but the Army
is much less enthusiastic. Senior Army officers are thought to believe there are problems
in encouraging soldiers to move into Army housing with their girlfriends.