Those already vested in the city of Macon pension system, or already retired, have nothing to fear from the consolidation of the city and Bibb County in January 2014, members of the City Councils Employee Development & Compensation Committee said Wednesday.
For shorter-term employees -- while all city workers are expected to have jobs initially with the new government -- the nature and duration of some positions is less clear, committee members acknowledged during a discussion with Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard.
Are we going to actually lose employees? Thats what they want to know, Councilman Henry Gibson asked.
I havent heard any talk of anyone losing their job, Hubbard replied.
Councilwoman Lauren Benedict said she knows employees are anxious, and she encouraged them to watch consolidation task force meetings online. But one thing they dont need to worry about, she said, is their pension. Public officials have repeatedly said retirees, or those who have worked the five years needed to become vested in the city pension system, have no reason to fear losing their promised benefits.
State law tells us we cannot take those benefits away, and to say otherwise unnecessarily scares our employees and our retirees, Benedict said. She said some other council members need to quit speculating that those benefits will somehow be cut.
After the meeting Benedict wouldnt name those members specifically, but said two or three had often stirred up doubts about pensions.
Council members Elaine Lucas and Lonnie Miley argued with Benedict on the subject at a Sept. 6 council meeting. Neither is a member of the Employee Development & Compensation Committee, and neither Lucas nor Miley was present Wednesday.
Benedict acknowledged there could be pension changes for employees who arent yet vested; and new hires by the incoming government are expected to be under a newly created pension plan.
Committee Chairman Charles Jones asked Councilman Tom Ellington, a member of the task force working on consolidation, to speak to the committee about job and retirement issues. Even non-vested city employees may be able to keep the benefits they signed on for, Ellington said.
The mayor has stated a willingness and a preference to have all current employees stay in the plans theyre in right now, he said. Ellington added that hes preparing a resolution stating councils preference to keep all current employees under existing plans after the transfer.
Employees from Macons Public Works Committee collects garbage in the city, while Bibb County uses a private contractor for trash pickup. What the new government will decide to do about that makes Public Works employees very nervous, Jones said.
They really need an idea of which direction this is going in, he said.
Thats an important question, Mr. Chairman, and I cant give a definitive answer, Ellington replied.
At least for a while after the new government starts, the existing arrangement could continue unchanged. But it will undoubtedly go one way or the other eventually, he said.
Personally, Ellington said, hes very skeptical of privatizing garbage service, and once a government gets out of that work, the capital start-up cost means youre never, ever, ever getting back into it.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.