A new four-year pact between the city and the police union provides a 13.9 percent raise to more than 100 police officers.
But one city councilor opposed the agreement because it doesn’t ask officers to pay enough for their health care.
“Everything was negotiated in good faith,” said Mayor Art Ward. He said both the city and the union had to give up items they wanted during negotiations.
Ward called the pact “a good compromise” that benefits taxpayers and the union.
The retroactive deal gives a 3-percent raise for 2007, 3.25-percent for 2008 and 3.5-percent in each of the final two years of the contract.
The contract also increases the share of health insurance costs paid by officers from the current 5 percent to 8.5 percent by 2010. That’s the highest figure that any city union outside the school system has yet agreed to cough up.
There’s no change in the existing pension provisions, Personnel Director Diane Ferguson said.
Five of the six city councilors backed the agreement, with only rookie Republican Ken Cockayne voting against it.
Cockayne said Wednesday that he didn’t have a problem with the pay hikes, but wanted a three-year agreement and a better deal for taxpayers on employee health care.
But Ward said the salary increases “are very comparable to communities that we’re basically competing with as far as retention of accredited police officers.
“It brings us up to being competitive,” Ward said.
The risk of paying less than the going rate is that the city will train new officers so they can become accredited and then they’ll leave for jobs elsewhere.
Cockayne said he wants city employees to pay at least 10 percent of the cost for their health insurance, along with higher co-pays for doctor and hospital visits.
As it is, police officers currently pay $66.44 each month as their share of a family medical plan. The city pays $1,377 more, Cockayne said.
Starting next month, officers with a family plan will pay $96.92 a month while the city will pay $1,523 monthly to cover the rest of the expense.
What that means, Cockayne said, is that every year, taxpayers are paying a much greater share of the rising health care tab than employees are.
“This was a huge deciding factor for me in voting no,” said Cockayne.
For the entire police department, employees pay $9,360 a month for their health insurance, Cockayne said. The city pays more than $150,000.
“That is why we can’t balance the budget,” he said.
Besides that, he said, the city’s plan is far more lucrative than anything the private sector has seen in years.
“It is not the Cadillac of health plans, it is the Ferrari of health plans,” Cockayne said.
Cockayne said his vote against the contract is not a reflection of any unhappiness with the job that officers do on the streets. He said the city has an excellent police force.
But, he said, taxpayers need a break.
The contract also sets an educational standard for those seeking to become sergeants and lieutenants for the first time. Starting in 2014, anyone wanting to become a sergeant needs to have at least an associate’s degree. Those seeking to become lieutenants will need a bachelor’s degree.
The city pays for college courses for police officers looking to earn a degree.
A three-year union pact reached last year between the city and 54 members of the Bristol Professionals and Supervisors Association delivered a 9.3 percent pay hike and required workers to cough up a 7.5 percent co-payment for their medical and dental insurance coverage, at the time the highest among the city’s municipal unions.
Two unions, representing the workers at City Hall and at public works, pay nothing at all toward their insurance tab. A new round of negotiations with them is set to begin soon.
The fire union is still negotiating a new agreement, Ward said. Ferguson said it’s in arbitration now.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org