February 7th, 2013 | City

NHPD approves new 5-year contract

After more than a year of negotiations, New Haven Police Department officers have voted in favor of a new five-year contract with the city.

The voting — which took place Wednesday from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the NHPD’s 1 Union Ave. headquarters — ratified a new deal between the city and the over 400 unionized NHPD officers who have been working without a contract since the previous contract expired on June 30, 2011. The contract will include a wage increase and long-term changes to pension and health benefits.

“We brought back the best package that we feel we could right now,” police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. told NBC Connecticut yesterday.

The turnout was high: More than 86 percent of the 413 officers eligible to vote participated in yesterday’s balloting, with 247 votes in favor of the new contract.

The approved contract — which will begin retroactively on July 1, 2011, and will last until June 30, 2016 — will 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 will 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 will rise for officers who retire after 2014. Instead of a flat $135 monthly health premium, all retirees will be required to pay the same premium they were paying at the time of retirement, with a 6 percent increase a year. Medical premiums will 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. The 20-year retirement benefit will not hold true for new police officers, who will 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.

The new contract 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 Cavaliere described as “unfair” in August 2012.

A tentative agreement between the city’s police union and the city was reached two weeks ago, on Jan. 24, when Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called the deal “fair but competitive” in an official 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,” DeStefano said.

Upon reaching an agreement with City Hall, Cavaliere organized a “double meeting” last week with a union attorney and medical experts to explain the details of the contract before yesterday’s ratification vote.