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Police, Fire supervisors' health contributions drop

Another change could be in store when contracts settled

Aug. 3, 2011

Police and Fire supervisors have paid 10 percent of their health insurance premiums since February, but that's coming to an end - at least temporarily.

The Common Council on Tuesday repealed certain ordinances regarding employee benefits and replaced them with others. In most cases, employees will be paying more toward their health insurance, both as active workers and during their retirement. All city employees other than those in the Police and Fire Departments are now paying 10 percent of health insurance premiums and contributing 5.8 percent of their wages to the pension system.

However, non-union employees working for the Police and Fire departments will pay a lesser contribution for health insurance premiums and nothing toward the state's pension program. When a contract is finalized for the protective unions, the supervisors' benefits will follow suit, city officials said.

Uncertainty unsettling

Non-represented Police and Fire employees started paying 10 percent in February. Now, those workers will return to a 3 percent premium contribution, in line with union members' contributions under their prior contract. Bargaining between police and fire unions and the city have reached a standstill and are in arbitration.

City officials have said that if the protected unions' contracts don't call for contributing more toward health premiums, they'll look at larger deductibles. That has police supervisors frustrated over not knowing what's in store for them, Police Capt. Dale Weiss said.

Earlier this year the Employee Relations Committee required the supervisors to pay 10 percent, saying they couldn't control the unions but they could make changes to management's benefits. At the time, committee members said they didn't have to treat the groups the same. Now, the two groups are being lumped together for convenience, Weiss said when the committee met July 26.

"For all these months we have been paying 10 percent," he said. "Why the change now?"

Alderwoman Jill Organ agreed, providing the lone dissenting vote.

"I feel like we're backing off," she said. "If it was a good idea, why change?"

Equal treatment not required

Initially when the state budget-repair bill was approved, city staff believed it mandated police and fire supervisors' health premium contributions follow the union. Since Wauwatosa doesn't participate in the state health plan it doesn't have to treat the groups equally, City Administrator James Archambo said.

The supervisors could continue to give 10 percent, but the city may face compression issues with union employees receiving a higher level of compensation than their bosses.

However, the protective supervisors' pension plan contributions are required to match their union counterparts'- zero right now. City officials hope the next contract will increase that number, too, Archambo said.

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