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Wauwatosa police union may look to courts to answer bargaining dispute

Sept. 21, 2011

The Wauwatosa Police Union and its supervisors have filed a claim disputing the city's interpretation of a portion of the state budget bill. If the city denies the claim, the police groups would have the right to sue.

City administrators say they have to bargain with police and fire unions over health care premium contributions. Meanwhile, the law gives municipalities the authority to make design changes to employee health care plans, said Beth Aldana, city human resources director.

The police have a different understanding of the law.

"We feel that we should still be able to bargain with the city, as we always have in the past, over what our premium, co-pay and deductible amounts will be," said Luke Vetter, police union president.

Wauwatosa police aren't the only public workers questioning the interpretation and looking to the courts to outline exactly what the words "health plan" entail. Milwaukee and Green Bay workers have filed similar actions.

Administrators attribute changes to the health plan - every city worker will be on the same plan come Jan. 1 - for eliminating nearly half, or $1.2 million, of the city's anticipated budget shortfall for 2012.

If the city does not deny the claim, the lawsuit would be delayed for a few months.

Administrators didn't say how they plan to move ahead, however police and city administrators will meet Thursday in an attempt to resolve the issues.

"We are evaluating our options," Aldana said.

The lawsuit is holding up arbitration on the union's contract.

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