Police Contract A Done Deal After Months of Negotiating
The village wanted the police to pay into their pensions and pay more of their insurance premiums, but the Caledonia police union held out for a pay raise.
The village and police union have settled their differences, and hammered out a one-year and a three-year contract, which asks for members to pay more toward their benefits while also getting a small pay increase.
Contract talks failed this spring after they had been in mediation, but they ultimately came back to the negotiating table last month – just in time for the budget hearing next week.
Essentially, both offers, which included some changes, were incorporated into one contract. The 2012 contract year would maintain status quo. But in 2013, the three-year contract requires the police to pay more of their insurance premium and pension costs while also receiving some wage increases.
The Village Board approved the deal in a five to one vote and union members ratified it this week. Kevin Wanggaard voted against the contract.
“The public safety employees still have the right to collectively bargain and take things to arbitration,” said Mark Janiuk, administrator for the village. “This is the best settlement we could get and we think it’s fair to both sides.”
Bob West, a contract advocate consultant to the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said he was pleased to see the two sides come to an agreement rather than drag the matter out through arbitration, which would have cost taxpayers more money.
“The bottom line is that the police union members will take home less pay than they had before and for a three year contract,” West said. “It’s a settlement, but it’s by no means a great settlement for them. It’s tough pill to swallow. But the state decided to lower the aid they give to municipalities and the state decided that the state public employees will make up that difference in their paychecks.”
According to the draft contract, the village’s offer for 2012 extends the expired contract the union is currently working under. That offer doesn’t ask police union personnel to pay 5.9 percent into their pension. The insurance plan has a village-paid $1,000 health reimbursement account that kicks in after a $250 deductible. But police union employees also have a high deductible insurance plan that is higher than the non-represented employees have.
Once the village’s 2012 contract is over, the police union contract kicks in and changes the amount they pay for insurance, pension and the wages they receive.
In that contract union members’ wages will increase 2 percent each year in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In return, employees will pay 2 percent of their salaries into pensions for 2013, 4 percent in 2014, and 6.9 percent in 2015. The offer would also increase the contribution to their health insurance from 10 to 11 percent 2013, 13 percent 2014 and 15 percent in 2015 for a lower deductible plan than employees have now.
In 2013, officers can carry over 80 hours of compensatory time off. In prior years, they could only carry over 40 hours.
“The one year-agreement maintains the status quo, but then leads into a three-year agreement,” West said.
Last month the village took issue with the police union’s contract offer because it contained language about co-pay and deductible levels, but the two sides ditched their state-appointed arbitrator and came back to the bargaining table.
The village asserted that the language in the police union contract was not lawful because of Acts 10 and 32, which said that unions couldn’t negotiate the plan and design of insurance packages. However, the issue caused a lot of issue at the Wisconsin Employee Relations Commission, and about four lawsuits have been filed with the state in relation to the rules surrounding the law. Both sides decided to go into mediation to see if they could come to an agreement and agreed to implement both contracts.
Non-union represented employees have been paying 5.9 percent of their wages into their pensions and paying 15 percent of their health insurance premium since June 2011 because of Act 10.
Still, West said he applauded the village and the police union members for coming back to the bargaining table.
“I would rather have them find a settlement rather than fighting, I applaud them for coming to the table and getting things done,” West said. “But it’s also difficult to look at three years of taking home less money than they are today. I realize that they are not the only ones looking at that… but at least they were saying they were willing to take the deal.”