FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield and its police union have agreed to a new contract that will give officers a pay increase and let them keep their pension plan in exchange for changes to their health plan and other concessions.
The Connecticut Organization for Public Safety (COPS) Local Union No. 530 had been working without a contract since the last one expired in July 2010. The Representative Town Meeting approved the new deal Monday night. The three-year retroactive deal will expire again June 30.
“The terms of this contract tonight are more favorable than the prior contracts,” Rep. Peter Ambrose said Monday.
Under the new contract, Fairfield’s 105 officers agreed to a wage freeze for the first year (July 2010 to June 2011). They will get retroactive increases of 2 percent for July 2011 to June 2012 and a 2.75 percent for July 2012 to June 2013. The contract also calls for all wages to rise another 0.75 percent on June 30, the last day of the term, which will carry over into the next contract period.
Currently employed officers will not see a change to their retirement benefits under this contract. Newly hired officers will still receive a pension when they retire but at lower rates. Their benefits will be 70 percent of their base pay at the time of their retirement, with a 2 percent periodic increase for cost of living adjustments. Current officers get 80 percent of their salaries with 3 percent COLA increases.
The RTM has been trying to switch Fairfield employees’ retirement plans away from pensions and into a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k). Recent deals with the town hall employees, school nurses and dispatchers all switched a 401(a) plan. Members believe this would cut costs in the long run because Fairfield’s contributions would end once the employee retires.
Labor attorney Patrick McHale explained Monday that switching police officers to this model could end up costing more. Public Safety employees are entitled to Social Security benefits if their retirement plans are less generous that those payments, McHale explained. If they switched to 401(a), Fairfield would have to cover the cost of Social Security benefits for retirees in that system.
The new contract also increases the co-pay amounts for the officers’ health care plans, by changing them from flat fee for all officers to a percentage of pay based on the number of people on the plan. It also does not allow officers to add dependents to the plan after they retire. The deal also reduces the amount of sick leave each officer is entitled to each year.
“Point for point, it’s better for the town than the one the police union rejected in 2011,” RTM member Marc Patten said Monday.