Mayor’s final offer to Omaha police union on contract goes to City Council

The City of Omaha and its police union don’t agree on pension and health care changes for police officers, so the City Council is set to vote on a final offer from the city to the bargaining unit.

Mayor Jean Stothert has submitted a last, best and final offer for the council’s review. That contract proposal would further change police pension benefits as well as offer a new health care plan that would save money for the city.

In exchange, officers would receive an 8 percent raise over the four-year contract.

If the council approves the administration’s offer, it would go to the police union members for a vote.

The police union can offer its own plan to the city, as well.

If both proposals are rejected, the state Commission of Industrial Relations would make a decision on the police wages. But that body would not change health care or pension plans.

Stothert said her proposal is a good deal for officers.

“I think the rank and file needs to understand what they’d be giving up” if they turn down the offer, she said.

John Wells, the president of the police union, said he was willing to work with the city on health care.

But he said changes made to the pension plan in the last contract were enough to put the pension plan on the right track. He said police officers would be unlikely to accept more cuts to their pension benefits.

“The city is willing to give up all that health care savings for a political point on pensions,” Wells said.

Under the mayor’s plan, officers would pay an additional 1 percent of their salary in pension contributions. New hires would have their pension payments capped at 65 percent of their salary rather than 75 percent.

Stothert said firefighters and the police and fire management unions have already agreed to those changes. She said it’s only fair that police officers do the same, because police and firefighters share a pension system.

Stothert also asked police officers to accept a change in their health plan, which would add a health savings account. That would save the city money. Stothert has said health care changes are her top priority in this round of negotiations with police officers.

Police officers would receive a 2 percent raise each year between 2015 and 2018.

The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the mayor’s proposal.

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