Emanuel says he won’t ‘negotiate in public’ on police contract
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporteremail@example.com February 7, 2013 1:52PM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced new investments in mentoring, after-school and summer programs at Harper High School, 6520 S. Wood St. Feb. 7, 2013. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:22AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he will “represent the taxpayers and what they can afford” in contract talks with Chicago Police officers demanding a 12 percent pay raise over two years, a reduction in health-care contributions and a $3,000-a-year residency stipend.
Pointedly and repeatedly, Emanuel refused to “negotiate in public.” Nor would he say whether he think the laundry list of demands issued by the Fraternal Order of Police is realistic.
But Emanuel noted that the police contract is not being negotiated in a vacuum. The political and financial reality is that the same taxpayers asked to finance the demands of rank-and-file police officers are on the hook to solve the city’s pension crisis.
In 2016, the city is required by state law to make a $700 million contribution to stabilize police and fire pension funds. That’s likely to require a painful mix of new revenues and employee concessions.
“If we don’t make changes, Chicago’s pension payments will equal all of what we’re paying for public safety . . . in a few years. If we don’t make changes, our public pension payments will equal every basic neighborhood service: garbage collection, recycling, graffiti removal, tree-trimming, pothole filling. . . . The list goes on and on,” Emanuel said. “There are tough choices. . . They’re very politically difficult. But they are less politically difficult than choosing between either making a public pension payment or public safety payments.”
The mayor emphasized that he respects the hard work Chicago Police officers do every day, and he intends to show that respect at the bargaining table.
“We will deal with all members of organized labor in a respectful way in trying to find an agreement that respects what they do, but respects the hard-earned dollars of our taxpayers. . . . I represent the taxpayers and what they can afford,” Emanuel said.
Asked whether he thinks police officers deserve to be treated differently than other city workers, Emanuel said, “My general view of all of us who work in public service is we work for the taxpayers of Chicago and it’s an honor.”
FOP President Mike Shields described the 12 percent pay raise demand as a way to make up for losses suffered by rank-and-file police officers in the last contract. That’s when an arbitrator awarded police officers their smallest increase in 30 years.
“Our demands are absolutely realistic. For a five-year duration, Chicago police officers have only gotten a 10 percent raise,” Shields said.
“When it comes time to finding $55 million for a park [named] for Maggie Daley, $20 million for canoe kiosks along the river or $90 million bike lanes, they find that money. No problem. But, when it comes time to talk about raises for overworked Chicago police officers, the city will always cry poor.”
As for the mayor’s argument about the pension crisis, Shields said the FOP plans to introduce a bill in Springfield that would dedicate a portion of revenues from a Chicago casino to the Chicago Police pension fund to “take some of the burden off” property owners.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Chicago Police officers are demanding a 12 percent pay raise over two years, a reduction in health care contributions and a $3,000-a-year residency stipend to compensate them for being forced to live and send their kids to school in the city.
The Fraternal Order of Police also wants to cut in half — from 20 percent to 10 percent — the share of promotions based on merit and remove the “merit” label.
To prevent the steady stream of retirements from further depleting the ranks, the union wants Supt. Garry McCarthy to establish “minimum staffing levels” and forward them to the union on a quarterly basis.
The Police Department equivalent of clunkers — squad cars and other vehicles with more than 90,000 miles on the odometers — would be mandatorily retired from patrol, under the union’s proposal.
Costly income supplements negotiated over the years in lieu of a bigger pay raise would increase under the union’s plan — to $3,620 a year in 2014 for duty availability pay and $2,100 for the annual uniform allowance.
The FOP wants to reduce health insurance contributions — from 1.29 percent to 1 percent of an officer’s paycheck for single coverage and from 2.47 percent to 2 percent for families. But the union is offering an incentive plan to help the city reduce its sick pay costs.
Police officers who stay off the medical rolls would get a $1,500 bonus for two years without sick time not related to on-duty injuries; $4,000 for five straight years, and $5,000 for 10 years without taking medical leave.
Union sources have described the 12 percent pay raise demand as a way to make up for losses suffered by rank and file police officers in the last contract, when an arbitrator awarded rank-and-file police officers a 10 percent pay increase over five years, their smallest increase in 30 years.
Starting pay for Chicago Police officers currently stands at $43,104 a year, $61,530 after the first 12 months and $86,130 after 25 years of continuous service.
The FOP wants officers to reach their maximum salary rate after 20 years, instead of waiting 25 years to achieve the top pay bracket.
Under the union’s plan, officers would also be allowed to “sell back” up to 200 hours of compensatory time in each calendar year as well as all unused vacation days at the end of the 13th police pay period.