Cops would get a 9 percent raise over five years and pay a little more for health care, and new hires would have to wait 25 years to retire, under terms of a tentative new five-year contract their union has struck with City Hall.
Also, all current cops would still be able to retire after 20 years on the job, a central demand of the rank-and-file over the past year, and an unusually generous benefit. The 25-year minimum—a central long-term goal of city negotiators—would affect not just future hires but cadets currently in the academy
The DeStefano administration and Police Union Local 530 announced Thursday afternoon that they’d reached the proposed contract after more than a year of negotiations.
Now comes the hard part: selling the contract to New Haven’s 400-plus sworn officers, who have been working without a contract since the last once expired on June 30, 2011.
A ratification vote could take place in about two weeks ago, according to union President Louis Cavaliere, Jr.
The proposed contract would raise cops’ pay 9 percent over five years while giving the city some important long-term changes it had sought in pension and health benefits.
Cavaliere called the contract “fair” and far better than what the union could have obtained if contract negotiation went to arbitration.
“It’s not a high-five contract,” Cavaliere said Thursday afternoon. “It wasn’t like we came out of there clapping and cheering and everybody was in a cheery mood. But you know what? If we went to arbitration, we look at what could have happened to us. I’m told out of 169 cities in Connecticut, New Haven is in the top four poorest cities. Top four! You go to arbitration when you’re the top four poorest, how do you do an arbitration?
“I think it’s fair. I’m taking a lot of heat. I’m clearing some stuff up with the attorney. Overall it’s fair.”
“Will it get ratified? I can’t answer that. I tell people, ‘Listen if you want to vote no because you’re going to lose three sick days a year, that’s insane.”
The tentative contracts highlights include, according to Cavaliere:
• The five-year contract would begin retroactively on July 1, 2011. No raise would take place retroactively for the fiscal year July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Cops’ pay would rise 3 percent in the current fiscal year, 0 percent the follow year, 3 percent each of the final two years.
• The new officers would have to wait 25 years to retire. “We’re one of the only departments in the state that have a 20-year finish line,” Cavaliere said. “Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury all have a 25-year finish line. It was big to keep that [20-year finish line for current cops].”
• Monthly health premiums would rise for officers who retire after 2014. All retirees currently pay a flat $135 monthly health premium, a sweeter deal than is enjoyed by cops in other Connecticut cities, according to Cavaliere. Starting 2015, retirees would pay the same premium they were paying at the time they retired—say, $250 a month. That premium would rise 6 percent a year—say, $12 to $20 a month. But it would be capped at $500. Cavaliere noted that he’ll have to pay the new premium because he won’t be eligible to retire until 2015. “I don’t want to pay a 6 percent increase when I leave either. I missed it by 6 months,” he said. But again, he predicted the union would get far worse terms in arbitration.
• Medical premiums would rise 7 percent for current officers.
• The number of annual sick days would drop from 15 to 12.
Cavaliere said he’s already hearing complaints about the deal from some members. He’s planning a “double meeting” next week with an attorney and someone from Anthem Blue Cross to explain the deal’s terms in detail to the rank and file.
Mayor John DeStefano Thursday praised the union leadership for coming to a “fair but competitive” agreement.
The pending agreement came up for discussion Wednesday night at a meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee. Budget officials reported that while the contract will produce significant long-term savings if ratified, it may have only minimal impact on the current fiscal year’s finances.
The DeStefano administration recently reached contract agreements with its school paraprofessional and city clerical unions containing health givebacks, and pension givebacks in the case of the clerical workers. It is still in negotiations with four other unions whose contracts have expired. It has reached an impasse with two other unions, representing public works and fire employees; those contracts have gone to arbitration.
One irony: The fire union endorsed Mayor John DeStefano for reelection in 2011. The police union didn’t.