Police Union and Town Council of Cheshire, Connecticut Heading to Arbitration of Proposed Pension Changes
The Town Council of Cheshire, Connecticut, after a recent controversial vote, will be entering arbitration with the town’s police union after more than a year of unsuccessful negotiations. The vote was passed 5-2 in agreement to not ratify the contract submitted by the Cheshire Police Department. According to Detective Fred Jortner, a member of the police union, “At this point, we consider ourselves to be at an impasse. We had a union meeting. We had more than nine months of negotiations, as well. This threw us for a loop.”
According to the Town Council, the reason for not ratifying the contract had to do with concerns raised over the included pension plan. According to the specifications of the contract, new hires would not be able to participate in the plan but those who were already members of the department would have increased retirement pensions—from 68% to 72% of their salaries.
Republican Councilor Tim Slocum said in a statement, “We had an expectation this would be going into arbitration. We understand there’s a cost, but under the circumstances (of the budget issues), it’s hard to look at this today and pay the pension costs.” The budget issues to which Slocum was referring have to do with a new town budget that was released at the beginning of March and called for a tax increase of 3.83 percent. According to the Town Council, this increase is necessary if the town is to maintain all of its services after budget cuts proposed by the Governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy, are in place.
The police union and Town Council expect that the arbitration proceedings will last approximately six months; they also plan to split the cost of it. Slocum, along with others on the Town Council, realize that arbitration could be a risky process for them in that issues previously negotiated could be reopened, but admits that it’s a process that must be undertaken, nonetheless. “It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” he said. “We have to fight for the taxpayers.”