By Charles Sercombe
It’s not starting off to be a “Happy New Year” for Hamtramck police officers.
Recently, the city council voted in favor of charging officers for their health insurance.
The cost to officers for single coverage is now almost $3,900 a year, and for a couple it’s $8,900.
For family coverage, cops will have to kick in about $11,000 a year.
According to city financial records, an officer just starting out earns almost $47,000 a year. The average Hamtramck officer makes about $62,000 a year. Prior to this new plan, officers were not required to make a co-payment.
The city, however, had little choice in demanding co-pays. A new state law, pushed through by Republican lawmakers, requires all public employees to contribute to their health insurance, and it places a cap on how much cities can pay into benefits.
But the plan that the city council agreed on is more costly to officers than a plan proposed by City Manager Bill Cooper.
As you might guess, police officers are not pleased.
“This is not good faith bargaining,” said Lt. Steven Smiscik, president of the ranking officers association, from a prepared statement he made to the city council. “In fact it is nothing short of a bully tactic.”
The two unions representing police officers have filed an Unfair Labor practice charge against the city since this action occurred during contract negotiations.
The unions also pointed out that they are also baffled by the move since an agreement had previously been reached on a new health care deal, which the union said would have saved the city $600,000 a year.
City Manager Cooper said there was indeed a plan that would have been easier on the wallets of officers, but it would have required all city employees to go along with it.
Cooper said it appeared all employees were in agreement. He added that the savings to the city would have been $500,000 a year, and that this new plan will save the city only $300,000.
So why go with a plan that offers reduced savings for the city?
Cooper said he can only speculate, but thinks it was a way to force the police unions to agree to more concessions.
“I’m sure there is going to be a lot more to come before this plan is finalized,” Cooper said.
City Councilmember Catrina Stackpoole, who is now off the council because her term expired, said the council is running out of options on where to make cuts in the city’s budget.
“We cannot balance the budget without concessions,” she said.
Councilmember Cathie Gordon was the lone vote against the health plan, saying officers will not be able to afford it.
“This is how we say thank you?” she said.