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Firefighters union official: Problems with cookie-cutter approach to pension reform

BY PHIL SIPE Published: November 24, 2012

The comprehensive pension reform for municipal employees proposed by the Oklahoma Municipal League's Carolyn Stager (Point of View, Nov. 10) falls short of considering other relevant factors. A cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach won't work when other important facts should be considered.

Not all municipal employees are alike in terms of their job functions and hours worked. Firefighters perform a very difficult, stressful job that's physically demanding and requires long hours as compared with other municipal employees. On the average, firefighters, because of their 24-hour schedule, work 2,912 hours annually. That's 832 more hours per year than 8-hour municipal employees who work 2,080 hours per year. Over the course of a 25-year career, this translates into roughly 10 years of additional labor, and yet city pension contributions aren't based on hours worked.

More time on the job as a firefighter naturally creates more wear and tear on the human body, more accumulated stress and a much higher probability for injury. The state doesn't need older firefighters.

Other problems with OML's approach include:

“Minimum retirement age” must include considerations for the maximum allowed age when employed and at the point of retirement. Firefighting is a job best performed by the young.

Consideration must be given to the fact that firefighters won't get Social Security benefits like other municipal employees. Their pension is all they'll have; therefore, defined contribution plans won't work for firefighters. This must also be considered when discussing changes to the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

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