Cumberland Times-News

February 13, 2013

City in talks with police union

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — City officials and the union representing city police officers continue to negotiate a new contract, while members of the union work under the terms of the old contract.

The previous contract includes a clause that its terms continue during the interim while new contracts are negotiated, said Mayor Brian Grim.

The mayor, council members and other city officials met in closed session Tuesday at City Hall to discuss the negotiations.

Grim said he was confident an agreement would be reached.

Forty-three members of the police department, ranked as sergeants and below, are members of the bargaining unit, Cumberland Police Chief Charles Hinnant said. Those department members are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994.

At the same time, city leaders had hoped some changes in health insurance terms could be reached with city employees represented in collective bargaining agreements, but right now, representatives for the employees aren’t interested in making changes, city officials said.

Employee health care and retirement benefit costs continue to increase, and are expected to be about $136,000 in the current fiscal year.

In the past few months, the city proposed a change in health care providers that would use the Local Government Insurance Trust to provide health insurance, City Administrator Jeff Rhodes said. City officials said that plan could have saved the city money, given enough time, based on projections.

“... Once reserves for claims have been built to an adequate level the city could save a significant amount of money annually.

“In addition, the proposed change would significantly increase our employees’ access to health care providers.

“Currently, unless an employee pays for and participates in a rather expensive high-end option, they cannot leave the state of Maryland for health care,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said the proposed coverage changes matched the current plan “dollar for dollar” with a slight improvement in eye care benefits, but without a cost increase due to the improvement.

Premiums could decrease under the proposed plan, he said.

Rhodes said employee representatives have not agreed to accept the change as proposed.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com