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City, FOP have reached agreement on contract, police union consultant insists

Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara was wrong to declare a tentative deal. But Paul Vallas, former city budget director and onetime mayoral challenger, now on the FOP negotiating team, took to Facebook Thursday to outline the terms.

A negotiator for the Fraternal Order of Police insists that despite what the mayor is saying, the two sides had a tentative deal almost a week ago.
Sun-Times file

Rank-and-file Chicago police officers would receive a 10.5 % retroactive pay raise and 9.5% more through January 2025, under a tentative agreement on an eight-year contract that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has refused to acknowledge, a union negotiator said Thursday.

Earlier this week, the mayor told reporters Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, her nemesis on all issues pertaining to law enforcement, “simply wasn’t correct” in a YouTube video he posted declaring the FOP had finally reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Police Department.

But Paul Vallas, the former mayoral city budget director and mayoral challenger who has served as an unpaid member of the FOP’s negotiating team, said Thursday it is Lightfoot who was mistaken.

“It was agreed that last Thursday’s strategic bargaining session was intended to conclude the agreement for which the Mayor and the City Council would have the final sign off. If the Mayor is now saying that there is no deal, she is rejecting an agreement negotiated by her own team. Let’s hope that’s not the case,” Vallas wrote Thursday on his Facebook page.

Vallas said the new eight-year contract has two phases.

Phase One is an agreement on officer compensation that also addresses what Vallas called the mayor’s “core accountability issues.” Phase Two will “take much more time to resolve,” presumably because it includes the most controversial disciplinary changes that “may end up in arbitration,” Vallas wrote.

“The consensus was that it was important to get the financial issues resolved and have accountability provisions that mirrored the city’s agreement with the sergeants, with some clarifications,” Vallas wrote, without revealing specifics.

Vallas described the financial agreement as a 20% increase for rank-and-file police officers — 22% “when compounded.” The city also agreed to increase so-called “duty availability pay” to $950 per quarter and raise the annual uniform allowance to $1,950.

Duty availability pay will be offered “retroactively” from July 2017 to all officers whose probation period has ended after 18 months. Going forward, duty availability pay will be available after 18 months, instead of after 42 months.

On health care, Vallas said rank-and-file police officers will be asked to absorb half the increase in health care contributions imposed on police sergeants and Chicago firefighters and paramedics. The “second half” of that increase will be “postponed until July 1, 2022 to allow members to retire under under current terms: 2.2% at age 55 and 0% for those 60 and over.

In a text message to the Sun-Times, Vallas wouldn’t pinpoint the contract’s overall cost to Chicago taxpayers or reveal the average retroactive paycheck.

But his Facebook post described the cost as “reasonable” and noted the cost is “inflated by the fact that it is equivalent to TWO combined contracts. ... Those who will respond to the contract cost need to remember and acknowledge this.”

The city has put money away each year, preparing to cover that eventual retro pay, he added, so the contract “should not require an increase in taxes. Nor should it delay the filling of police vacancies in order to have the needed financing,” he wrote.

The mayor’s office had no immediate comment.