Cops likely to see health care changes

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Along with an 11 percent pay raise, Chicago’s police officers will likely see changes when it comes to their health care plan, according to a tentative collective bargaining agreement for the city’s 10,000 unionized cops.

Starting in 2017 — delayed when compared with other city workers — the police health care plan will be part of a tiered system, in which the city has deals with certain health care providers. That’s drawn some concerns about the quality of institutions that will be covered under that tiered plan.

However, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7 President Dean Angelo Sr. on Friday said, “We really didn’t lose a lot. We held a lot and we got some major concessions by the city.”

Along with the 11 percent pay raise over five years, which includes retroactive pay raises of 2 percent effective both July 1, 2012, and Jan. 1, 2013, cops who are helicopter pilots will be moved to a higher-paying position, union officials said.

The retroactive backpay won’t apply to overtime between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.

Duty availability pay will be increased at a “comparable rate as wage increases,” according to union officials, but rather than getting quarterly payments after 12 months on the job, officers hired in 2015 would get them after 42 months, sources said, adding that’s in line with some Chicago Fire Department paramedics.

And the city also has committed to buying 400 new police vehicles and it has pledged $30,000 a year to help fund the honor guard, which appears at funerals and memorials.

City cops also will be exempt from participating in the city’s wellness plan, which penalizes people if they don’t participate.

Officers also will see their vacation time grow one year earlier. Instead of five years on the job to get 24 days off, it will take four years to get to that amount.

Among other changes, union officials also said there will be new protections for cops who witness a fellow officer shoot his weapon. Just like the shooting cop, the witness will get a “cooling down period” before talking to investigators, Angelo said.

And there will be a clarified military leave benefits and changes to how some officers can be scheduled, union officials said.

Also, cops who retire on or after June 1, 2017 and are between the ages of 55 and 59 will have to contribute 2 percent of their annuity for the cost of health care, which is at the moment free. Officers over 60 will still have free health care.

“All in all, it’s a pretty strong agreement,” Angelo said after meeting with union representatives.

He said the response from members has been “positive” and he’s “cautiously optimistic” it will be ratified.

If it is ratified, it will be the first contract to be approved by members since 1992, he said. If the five-year contract isn’t ratified, it goes into arbitration.

Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement, “We believe this is a fair and responsible agreement — respectful of the hard work performed by the men and women of the Chicago Police Department to keep our residents safe, and respectful of Chicago’s hard-working taxpayers.”

The union will have multiple town hall meetings to discuss the tentative agreement with members and to determine when the union will vote to ratify the contract, which has been under negotiation for more than two years, Angelo said.

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