Tucson Police Union Wants More Benefits
Tucson police union asks for better retirement benefit
May 5, 2015 Arizona Daily Star
The police labor union wants the city to upgrade retiree medical coverage, saying its benefit package comes up short of what firefighters get.
But the city says it can’t afford that right now, when it is already struggling to pay for the growing cost of the public safety pension.
The Tucson Police Officers Association (TPOA) wants the city to pay for medical insurance between when an officer retires and when they become Medicare eligible at 65.
The city did away with that benefit in 2010 to save money, but the Tucson Fire Department gained the benefit back a year later after contract negotiations.
Retired police officers deserve the same as retired firefighters, said Jason Winsky, government affairs director at TPOA.
TPOA filed a compensation dispute with the city last week as part of the city’s compensation planning process. The union is also in labor contract negotiations with the city.
“This is a gross disparity,” Winsky said. “It’s unacceptable that they fixed it for fire but not for police.”
City HR director Curry Hale met with TPOA, he told the City Council Tuesday during an update on the compensation planning process.
Councilmember Steve Kozachik said there are inconsistencies between various labor contracts, such as Tucson Fire and Tucson Police, because they’re negotiated independently.
The city can’t afford to do what TPOA is asking, he said.
“While we’re still pulling money from the reserve fund to balance the budget, we can’t afford raises and we can’t afford to cover these retiree health benefits,” Kozachik said.
The city recently had to find $18 million to cover the underfunded police and fire pension funds. It chose a three-year payment plan to ease the burden.
It would cost another $364,000 a year to cover the retiree health care, Kozachik said.
Winsky said the benefits are important because police and fire employees can’t work as long as other kinds of workers.
The benefit is a stopgap until they are eligible for another program.
City Attorney Mike Rankin said retiree health benefits are not within the scope of the compensation dispute process and should be discussed at the negotiating table.
The compensation plan will be approved next month.