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City Council approves police contract

Chicago Police officers will get back paychecks averaging $6,000 within 75 days — and an 11-percent pay raise over five years — thanks to a contract ratified Wednesday that guarantees pre-election labor peace for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The contract overwhelmingly approved by the City Council marks the first time since 1996 that the contract covering 10,000 rank-and-file Chicago Police officers will not be decided by an independent arbitrator.

Emanuel made certain of it when he granted rank-and-file police officers the 4-percent retroactive pay raise he could have denied them because of a paperwork mistake made by their, now-ousted union president.

Instead of playing the trump card in his hand in a way that punished the rank-and-file, the mayor used it to get some measure of relief for Chicago taxpayers.

They’ll save $2.3 million because the back pay raise for the first year of the contract will not apply to overtime earned between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013. That’s a period when moonlighting officers racked up large amounts of overtime while flooding high-crime areas.

“Nobody wanted to punish the rank-and-file for a mistake that their [past] president made,” Jim Franczek, the city’s chief labor negotiator, told aldermen earlier this week.

“Because of the failure of the prior leadership, the FOP wasn’t entitled to any increases for 2012-2013. So, what we did as part of the compromise is give full retroactivity for that year with the exception of overtime….There was a marked change in the approach to negotiations with the new leadership. So, we think this was the right thing to do.”

Rank-and-file police officers have already approved the contract by a 2-to-1 vote.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), chairman of the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee, said Emanuel has come a long way in building bridges to union leaders who were nearly united in opposition to his candidacy four years ago.

“The firefighters agreement which was done last month and all of the other contracts that have come during the course of the last several months speak to a dynamic in this city in terms of labor relations that has really not been seen, possibly since Richard J.” Daley, O’Connor said.

​”It bodes well for the things we’re going to need to do during the course of the next several months as it relates to our pensions.”

After the unanimous vote, Emanuel rose from the rostrum to recognize Angelo, with whom the mayor forged a new and productive partnership that was a stark contrast from Emanuel’s contentious relationship with Shields.

“Dean has been a true partner for the city and his members,” he said.

“When we got to a few points, we would exchange phone calls and move our collective teams to see the overall forest — not the trees. This is a win-win for the city.”

FOP President Dean Angelo said this week they were convinced that rolling the dice with an arbitrator would have risked having the 4-percent, first-year pay raise that Mike Shields’ mistake put in jeopardy spread out over the five-year life of the contract. Before being thrown out of office, Shields apologized for his mistake.

“We had an opportunity to open up a 12-month period that was gone. The retroactivity is a portion of that,” Angelo said this week.

“The bigger picture is the 4 percent….That has a constant impact over everyone’s career for the rest of their lives. That, to me, is a bigger win than the retroactivity. Our spouses have already spent it.”

The $2.3 million overtime break is not the only savings for Chicago taxpayers.

Officers between the ages of 55 and 59 who retire on or after June 1, 2017 will have to contribute 2 percent toward health care now provided free.

And the city got a new tool to curb police overtime that totaled $100.3 million last year and is expected to reach $95 million this year comes in the way furloughs are scheduled.

Instead of requiring officers to bid on vacation time against other officers within their unit, the bidding will occur by watch. That should reduce overtime.

“Currently, the senior guys could all take off at the same time. They get the prime time off, then you’re short on a given watch or you’re short district-wide and it either produces overtime or shifting people around,” said Workforce Development Committee Chairman Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s floor leader, said this week.

“If you do it by watch, you’re bidding only against the guys in your own watch and you can stagger it a little bit more. It’s more controlled.”

The 11-percent pay raise is only a “floor.” If the Illinois General Assembly mandates a higher pension contribution, the FOP can negotiate an even bigger pay raise.

The contract also: exempts police officers from a  wellness plan that penalizes city employees who don’t participate; commits the city to buying 400 new police vehicles by Dec. 31 and 200-a-year for the life of the contract; increases vacation time one year earlier; and demands that requests for time off “not be unreasonably denied.”

Quarterly payments to compensate officers for being on emergency call would gradually increase. Graduate school reimbursements would be reduced after Sept. 1, 2016.

The city has 75 days to calculate and deliver individual back paychecks that are expected to average $6,000-per-offficer. 

Budget Director Alex Holt has pegged the cost of retroactive pay raises for rank-and-file police officers at up to $65 million, but ruled out long-term borrowing to pay for it.

If borrowing is needed at all to cover the cost of back pay or any of the 11-percent pay raise over five years, Holt has said it would be  “short-term only” paid back over the life of the contract, which expires on June 30, 2017.

For Emanuel, the new contract not only guarantees pre-election labor peace with the last major union whose contract had not been settled.

Once the Illinois Supreme Court decides the constitutionality of a state pension reform bill, it sets the stage for similar negotiations with police and fire unions to minimize a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire funds with assets to cover just 30 and 24 percent of their respective liabilities.

“I hope the demeanor that the union puts forward pension-wise is the same demeanor we put forward throughout the negotiations process,” Angelo said, noting that the FOP is “working with other organizations” on a funding solution he refused to identify.

Apparently referring to the fact that cost-of-living increases for police officers are not compounded, Angelo warned: “If you talk to any actuary, increased contributions and diminished benefits for the membership isn’t even a blip on the radar. It does nothing….It’s got to be deposits.”