After more than a year of negotiations, New Haven Police Department officers have reached a tentative five-year contract agreement with the city.
Announced Thursday morning, the tentative agreement between the city and unionized NHPD officers represented by Local 530 includes a wage increase as well as long-term changes to pension and health benefits. The contract agreement is awaiting approval from the over 400 police officers in the NHPD who have been working without a contract since the previous contract expired on June 30, 2011.
“This agreement is fair but competitive,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in a statement following the announcement. “It will allow us to attract the best and the brightest to the New Haven Police Department by compensating them fairly, while saving the taxpayers of the city money.”
The tentative agreement comes after months of uncertainty during which the police union seemed unable to settle on a contract with the city. Negotiations appeared to have hit a dead end, as the city pushed for pension and medical benefits concessions that police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. described as “unfair” in August 2012. That same month, Cavaliere — who was appointed president of the union in June — told the News that if the dispute remained unresolved and reached state arbitrators, officers might leave the force.
Upon reaching yesterday’s agreement, Cavaliere called the proposed 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, but it’s not the worst contract in the world, especially considering the financial situation of the city,” Cavaliere said. “We’re definitely going in the right direction.”
The proposed contract — which, if ratified, will begin retroactively on July 1, 2011 and will last until June 30, 2016 — would raise the pay of New Haven cops by 9 percent over five years while allowing the city certain long-term changes in health and pension benefits. Under the contract, officers’ pay would rise by 3 percent in the current fiscal year, 0 percent next year and 3 percent in the years 2015 and 2016, while monthly health premiums would rise for officers who retire after 2014: Instead of a flat $135 monthly health premium, all retirees would be required to pay the same premium they were paying at the time of retirement, with a 6 percent increase a year. Medical premiums would also increase by 7 percent for current officers.
The new contract will also reduce the number of annual sick days from 15 to 12. However, current police officers will maintain their right to retire after only 20 years on the job, which was one of the major points of contention with the city.
“We’re the only department in the state that has a 20-year finish line,” Cavaliere said. “Hartford, Bridgeport and Waterbury all have a 25-year finish line.”
However, the 20-year retirement benefit will not hold true for new police officers, who would have to spend 25 years in service before retiring under the new contract. New hires and current cadets will also be denied some of the benefits enjoyed by current police officers, Cavaliere said.
If ratified, the proposed contract could go into effect as early as February, Cavaliere said. Meanwhile, he said he is planning a “double meeting” next week with a union attorney and medical experts to explain the details of the medical package. The tentative agreement will then go before the union’s general membership for a ratification vote and then move to the Board of Aldermen for final approval.
“I don’t know if [the contract] will be ratified,” Cavaliere said. “But I tell people, ‘If you want to vote no because you’re going to lose three sick days a year, that’s insane.’”
New Haven experienced the first two homicides of the year on Wednesday, one day before the tentative agreement was reached.