Friday, February 8, 2013

Chicago police union defends request for 12 percent raises over two years

City Hall has enough money to give Chicago police officers 12 percent raises over two years and still hire more cops to bolster the size of the force, the head of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police said Thursday in defending the union’s contract proposal.

Union president Michael Shields said it’s simply a matter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel making public safety a priority. In addition to 6 percent yearly raises, the union wants $3,000 yearly “cost of living in Chicago” stipends for police to help defray the expense of the requirement that they live within city limits.

The FOP proposal is an early contract offer in negotiations that could drag on for some time before eventually going to an independent arbitrator for a ruling, as was the case with the last police contract in 2010. The offer is being distributed to police officers this week by union representatives.
Asked whether the union proposal is realistic, the mayor said Thursday he doesn’t want to negotiate in public.
“In whatever conversation I’ve had, or negotiations, I represent the taxpayers and what they can afford. That’s my perspective,” Emanuel said at a news conference to announce the city will invest more money in programs designed to keep at-risk youth out of trouble.
Ald. Patrick O’Connor, who is Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, noted the city’s financial struggles.
“Anybody that’s been observing city government for the last several years knows we do not have a lot of money for the essentials, never mind raises and increases and benefits to a group that basically already has one of the best deals of all the unionized workers in the city of Chicago,” said O’Connor, 40th. “But I can understand where they would want to carve out this territory, because the strategy must be, ask for significantly more than they think they’re going to get, and maybe it will level off at an area that’s acceptable to them.”
But Shields, who has been arguing the city must hire additional police to fight the scourge of violence in Chicago, said meeting the union’s salary demands still would leave Emanuel with sufficient revenue to do so.
“The money’s there when they want to build something, when they want to put in bike lanes,” Shields said. “The mayor just has to decide if this is a commitment he wants to make.”
Shields also said the union’s salary request reflects the fact then-Mayor Richard Daley offered rank-and-file police raises totaling 16 percent over five years  during the last contract negotiations before pulling that package off the table. The arbitrator instead awarded the union a 10 percent raise. “We take that into account” in asking for 12 percent this time, Shields said.
But O’Connor said the current negotiations shouldn’t be influenced by an earlier offer the police union didn’t accept. “To somehow make it ‘We’re still owed the money because at one time it was on the table?’ That’s not how negotiations work. It’s certainly not how contracts work,” he said.,0,441034.story

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