Jul 30, 2014

City Ratifies Agreement With Police Union

Three-year contract is in place that calls for wage increase, pension contribution.

City Ratifies Agreement With Police Union

The Oak Creek Common Council has approved a three-year agreement between the city and police union that calls for increases in wages and pension contributions.

Union members' wages will increase by 3 percent the first two years and 2 percent in the third year. In exchange, employees will make pension contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System of 3 percent this year and 2.9 percent (or the state adjusted rate) the next year.

The contract also dictates that health insurance be discontinued for employees and their spouses when they turn 65. That's a potentially huge savings for the city, as it reduces the Other Post-Employment Benefits liability by an estimated $6 million to $7 million, according to a report to council members.

Instead officers will receive a payment -- 150 hours at their current salary -- that will be placed into Voluntary Employee Benefit Account, a health trust fund that can be accessed for medical expenses after retirement.

"This is a good agreement for the city," Peterson said. "It nets out about a 2 percent increase in cost to the city over a three-year period of time, and I think that's a significant part of the agreement."

The police union was also pleased with the contract, president Andy Sagan said. The concessions were made knowing the slow economy and the need to provide relief to taxpayers, he said.

"The Oak Creek Professional Police Officers Association is pleased we were able to work with the city's personnel committee to come to this agreement," Sagan said. "It is our belief this contract settlement benefits the city taxpayers as well as our members.

"We also believe it's a good example that collective bargaining is a process that still works and gives both the municipality and the employees a voice."

Alderman Mike Toman, who chairs the city's personnel committee, said reaching the agreement was a long process that paid off in the end.

"This last session went to mediation and it looked like we were heading to arbitration," Toman said. "We hung in there. It took us six hours to hammer this thing out."

Toman said the contract also puts the city "on a path" to settle with the firefighters union.

Alderman Ken Gehl was the lone council member to vote against the plan. He said the police union should be treated the same as other city employees, which means taking a pay freeze and paying more for their pension, and expected more cooperation given Oak Creek's fiscal situation.

"We all face the same budgetary problems and revenue problems," Gehl said. "They treat themselves as a special class of employees, (when) they're no better or worse than the rest of them."

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