Police and firefighters would earn more, pay more under new contracts
Alameda’s public safety unions have signed off on new contracts that could see police and firefighters earning their first raises since 2006 but paying more toward their pensions and also contributing to increases in the cost of their health care coverage.
The contracts, which the City Council is set to consider on Tuesday, would go into effect on June 30, 2013 and remain in place through June 24, 2017.
“This makes dramatic progress on having employees contribute to their own pensions and contribute to their own health care,” City Manager John Russo said of the contract deals Tuesday, adding that wage increases would be based on the financial health of the city.
If the council approves the contracts, the city’s police and firefighters will earn raises of between 1.5 percent and 4 percent in 2014 and between 2 percent and 5 percent in each of the next two years, based on revenue growth. Other city workers received similar raises in contracts approved in June.
Salary increases offered to the Island’s public safety workers in 2017 would be based on a survey of pay in neighboring cities.
In addition to their regular pay, police and firefighters would be eligible for a pay bump based on their education and experience. Police officers could receive an additional 6 percent if they receive additional training or hold a college degree in criminal justice or public administration, while firefighters would receive additional pay of up to 5 percent of their salaries for certifications, degrees and time served.
The incentive program is new for firefighters and replaces a similar program for police department employees who started prior to July 1, 1995. It will cost the city close to $2.5 million over the life of the contracts if approved, offset by savings of $893,000 from other contract provisions, a cost estimate drafted by city staffers shows, though Russo said the deal could produce additional savings not accounted for in the estimate.
The amount of money the city’s public safety workers contribute toward their pensions will increase to 15 percent of their salaries in 2016, up from the 11 percent they pay now. State pension reform rules allow cities to negotiate with their unions to get workers to pay more toward their pensions or to impose a payment of half the cost of the pension up to 12 percent of a worker’s salary in 2018.
The city now pays 37 percent of each public safety worker’s salary toward their pension, an amount that was expected to grow to 41 percent by 2015.
Under the new contracts, public safety workers will also shoulder a portion of rate hikes imposed by Kaiser and Blue Cross, the two health plans the city offers, with the city covering only the lower Kaiser rate as of 2016 and workers picking up half of any cost increases to that rate by 2017. Kaiser’s premium for two-party coverage for 2013 is $232 a month lower than Blue Cross’s premium, and $301.60 per month lower for family coverage.
The contracts also guarantee that police staffing will not fall below the department’s current 88 sworn officers while a federal grant that’s paying for more firefighters remains in place and that a disaster preparedness captain will be added at the fire department.
The contracts will also incorporate new pension reform rules approved by state lawmakers that raise the retirement formula for public safety workers hired after January 1, 2013 to 2 percent of their salaries for each year served at age 50 to 2.7 percent for workers who retire at 57. Those already employed will be eligible to receive 3 percent of their pay for each year worked at age 50.
Under the reform law, pensions for new hires will be based on their top three years of earnings, instead of the top year of earnings they’re now based on. The city’s current police and fire staffers also agreed to adopt the provision, as of 2017.
New firefighters will also receive 40 percent of the salary that their predecessors received while attending training, earning $25,334 during training and $63,336 when they report for duty. Starting police officers will earn a base salary of $80,558.40.
Russo announced during Tuesday's meeting that the council voted to release a memo from the City Attorney's office that will offer additional context on the contracts. He said the memo would be released by Friday.