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Fairfield cop union fuming over lack of a contract

Updated 5:59 pm, Tuesday, November 27, 2012
  • The fairfield police union has taken to Facebook to express its displeasure with the lack of a contract. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    The fairfield police union has taken to Facebook to express its displeasure with the lack of a contract. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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The Fairfield police officers' union is taking to social media to express displeasure with the fact that it still has no contract after the last one expired more than two years ago.

A message has been posted on the union's Facebook page urging residents to support the union in its quest for a new pact and to call First Selectman Michael Tetreau in support of that goal.

Written by Fred Caruso, a detective and a union executive board member, the post notes the bargaining unit has been without a contract for 850 days, but officers nonetheless have worked through two near-hurricanes, major snowstorms and holidays.

"We have worked through the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's as well as Memorial Days, Fourth of July's and Labor Days. For most of you that is time spent with family and friends. ... For the majority of our membership, it is time spent away from family and friends and being forced to work double shifts so that the good people of this town can enjoy roadways free of drunk drivers, the Memorial Day parade and Fourth of July fireworks and festivities. We do this because it is our job, but mostly because we care about this town and the people living and working in it. We are those people as well."

Like all of Fairfield's municipal unions, the police contract expired on June 30, 2010.

While the contracts with the firefighters, Town Hall employees, nurses and Emergency Communication Center have been settled -- some requiring two attempts at Representative Town Meeting approval -- the pacts with police, Department of Public Works and mid-managers remain unresolved.

"After all of that, the leaders of this town, for lack of a better description, have offered us a zero percent raise, cut our sick time, raise our insurance premiums and co-pays and take our pensions away," Caruso wrote. "Does that sound like a good deal to you?"

He wrote that Tetreau "chooses not to speak with us. Instead, he has hired an attorney, whose sole function is to take away our benefits and, by the way, add to his. He has no connection to this town but he is sure making a good living off of you, the Fairfield taxpayers."

When contacted, Tetreau said it would be inappropriate to comment on contract negotiations publicly.

Tetreau's administration has hired lawyer Patrick McHale to handle the union negotiations. McHale's firm bills the town at a rate of $260 per hour for his services.

The police union's website indicates that it has filed for arbitration with the state to seek resolution of the impasse.

According to Caruso's post, Fairfield officers are among the lowest paid in Fairfield County. He said pensions are calculated on base salary, with no overtime factored in, and for more than a decade, their pension was funded solely by the police and firefighters.

Police officers do not receive Social Security, and former Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller stated previously that needs to be taken into consideration because with a defined contribution plan, Social Security would be paid not only on base salaries but also overtime or outside duty earnings.

A major sticking point when the firefighters and Town Hall contracts first came to the RTM was the fact that the defined-benefit package -- the municipal pension -- was not eliminated for newly hired employees. Under the new contracts for nurses, Town Hall workers and ECC staff, all new hires will be in a defined contribution plan, or plans similar to a 401k. The firefighter contract gives new employees the option of the pension plan or the defined contribution plan.

Under most contracts, employees have been paying about $31 a week for health insurance premiums. So far, the new contracts have called for premium contributions based on a percentage of cost and increased co-pays.

To read the complete union statement go to http://on.fb.me/SiI2o2

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost