Hartford’s Police Union, after working 16 months without a contract, voted late Friday to approve a collective bargaining agreement that includes increases to employees’ health-insurance costs and pension premiums, and places a cap on sick-leave accrual for new hires, measures that city officials estimate will generate millions in savings each year.
The union, the largest in Hartford at about 400 members, had signed a tentative agreement with the city last week. Its members spent the intervening days at various informational meetings about the agreement’s terms, organized by union leadership.
This contract, which lasts through 2022, comes after a long period of negotiation between Mayor Luke Bronin — who’s repeatedly stressed the importance of labor-union concessions for the city’s financial stability — and union leadership under Sgt. John Szewczyk.
“By casting today’s vote, the members of the Hartford Police Union, already one of the most overworked and underpaid in Connecticut, are once again demonstrating their deep commitment to our city and its residents,” Szewczyk said. “At this critical time in Hartford’s history, this passage represents yet another level of contribution to the community we serve and a major step toward resolving the city’s financial difficulties.”
The police union is the third major city labor group to ratify a contract under Bronin’s tenure, after the firefighters did so almost exactly one year ago and members of The City of Hartford Professional Employees Association did last week.
Bronin, in a statement, thanked the union’s leadership for working with him through the “long, tough negotiations” that netted the agreement.
"The outstanding members of the Hartford Police Department put themselves at risk every day to keep our city safe,” Bronin wrote, "and I am grateful to them for ratifying a contract that not only provides millions of dollars of immediate savings, but also makes significant long-term structural reforms to healthcare, pension contributions, and long-term pension benefits.”
Bronin submitted a resolution to city council urging them to review and weigh in on the contract. Under the city’s municipal code, a council vote is the final hurdle for any collective bargaining agreement after it’s ratified.
The terms of the contract include no general wage increases for the union members for the first four years of the agreement’s six-year lifespan.
Starting in July, the union’s health insurance plan will shift from a preferred provider organization plan to a “high deductible health plan with a health savings account.” That shift comes with an immediate increase of two percentage points to insurance costs, followed by additional increases each year from 2018 through 2020.
Pension contributions will also increase under the contract by 3 percent, which will “reduce long-term pension liabilities,” according to Bronin’s resolution. The contract reduces multipliers and maximum benefits for both sworn and non-sworn new hires.
It also eliminates city-provided retiree health insurance for new hires and restructures how sick leave is accrued and paid out.
Under the agreement, current union members will have a lower cap on the maximum amount of sick time they can accrue and cash in at retirement. New hires now have a maximum sick leave accrual of 80 days and would not receive any payout of accrued sick leave upon retirement.