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Chicago police union to City Hall: Where’s NATO overtime pay?

Chicago police officers driot gear towards end NATO rally. | Brian Jacks~ Sun-Times

Chicago police officers don riot gear towards the end of the NATO rally. | Brian Jackson ~ Sun-Times

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Updated: July 3, 2012 10:17AM

The Fraternal Order of Police has not been shy about suggesting that Chicago Police officers should be compensated during upcoming contract talks for their performance during the NATO Summit.

But now the union is being forced to play defense to ensure its members get their due under the existing collective bargaining agreement.

The FOP has filed its fourth grievance tied to the summit, this one stemming from the city’s apparent decision not to give officers time-and-a-half overtime for working a sixth or seventh consecutive day in a week.

Notice of the latest grievance was posted on the FOP’s website under the facetious headline, “More Thanks for a Job Well Done.”

It states, “First, the city took the unusual position that officers could not request to be credited with compensatory time for any overtime they worked during the NATO Summit, knowing this was a clear violation of our contract. Now, after our mayor, superintendent and the citizens of Chicago have heaped praised upon Chicago police officers for their excellent work at the NATO Summit, the city has taken the position that officers are not entitled to compensation for working a sixth or seventh day during a single calendar week.”

FOP president Mike Shields goes on to say the wording of the police contract “could not be any more unambiguous.”

He states that officers who work “six or seven consecutive days” within a Sunday-through-Saturday pay period “will be compensated at the rate of time-and-one-half” for work performed on the sixth and seventh day.

The overtime grievance comes just under a month before the FOP’s contract is set to expire, and adds to the growing tension between the union and the city.

Asked about the latest union grievance, police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said, “The Chicago Police Department fully intends to work through these issues with the union to ensure that our officers are fully compensated for their work during the NATO Summit.”

Last week, the FOP filed another class-action grievance, that one stemming from the city’s decision to pay officers who worked overtime during the summit and deny them the option of taking compensatory time off.

“NATO is not an excuse for the city of Chicago to circumvent the contract,” Shields said then.

A City Hall source, who spoke on condition of remaining anonymous, said the overtime grievance was triggered by a “paperwork error. ... Forms did not give officers a chance to choose between pay and comp time. Pay was already checked. It should not have happened.”

The source said that the decision was “not set in stone” and that, “If it comes to a point where they have to accept cash they don’t want, they’ll be able to trade this money in for comp time.”

The union has also filed two other NATO-related grievances, both still pending.

One challenged the city’s decision to cancel furloughs during a two-week period that coincides with the summit. The other was filed to ensure “correct compensation” for officers who worked a regular tour of duty during the summit but had their hours adjusted by more than two hours from the designated start time of their normal watch.

The city hasn’t released details of its NATO-related purchasing and personnel costs. The tab for police overtime for the 3,100 officers assigned to NATO duty is expected to be huge.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy canceled days off and ordered all officers to work 12-hour shifts so the department could devote extraordinary police resources to the summit and also provide increased neighborhood police protection.

Despite the ugly image of baton-wielding police officers squaring off against protesters at times trying to provoke them, the police department has won praise for its preparation and performance during the summit. McCarthy’s leadership on the front lines in helping to diffuse that potentially volatile confrontation at Michigan and Cermak has turned him into a local celebrity.

Earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the police “performed incredibly well,” but so did a lot of other city employees “you didn’t see.” The mayor wouldn’t say whether police would be rewarded during contract talks.

City Hall has since begun negotiations on a new contract with Chicago firefighters. By the time police contract talks do begin in earnest, the NATO summit will likely have faded from public memory, the sources said.

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