After three years, the city of New Haven and the police union have finally reached a contract agreement.
Police union members on Friday overwhelmingly approved the contract by a vote of 259 to 13, after ongoing negotiations, and then a binding arbitration process. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said part of the goal is to retain recruits and attract new police officers to the city.
“This makes New Haven more competitive with neighboring communities who have been poaching young officers with more lucrative compensation,” she said.
The contract would give officers retroactive wage increases as well as reimbursement for past overtime pay at the increased rate. The payments would be distributed to active-duty officers in installments over the next three years. Salaries are set to increase by a total of approximately $10 million over the life of the agreement.
But officials didn't go into detail about how they plan to fund the increases.
“The retroactivity of this contract allows the city to budget and plan for those lump sum payments, avoiding any potential shocks to the city’s smooth and predictable cash flow,” Harp told reporters at Monday’s press conference.
The agreement also includes a cap on retirements – 20-per-year. Future officers will be eligible to retire after 25 years of service, rather than 20, or at the age of 52. “The savings in this aspect of the contract alone will pay dividends for the life of the contract and for years beyond that, in terms of the city’s pension liability,” Harp said.
In addition, the contract moves the city towards more cost effective, preventive medical care through a high-deductible medical plan, according to Labor Director Thomas McCarthy.
Interim police chief Otoniel Reyes thanked city officials for their work and highlighted the dedication of a number of officers “who in spite of the uncertainty of the last three years decided to stay.” Reyes went on to say that he is proud that the administration finally reached an agreement. “But to be honest with you,” he said “it’s been three years. Three years of uncertainty. Three years that have cost this department a lot of strife.”
Florencio Cotto, president of Elm City Local, the city's police union, agreed with Reyes. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “The sentiment is one of joy. And we look forward to inking this deal, and getting it done, and moving forward.”
The contract now heads to the Board of Alders for approval.