Police union approves labor contract

December 7, 2017 GMT

HUNTINGTON — The union representing current and retired Huntington police officers voted Tuesday to ratify a contract proposal between the Fraternal Order of Police Gold Star Lodge 65 and the city of Huntington.

The union’s approval comes after more than two years of negotiation as well as one proposed agreement that was voted down by members earlier in the year.

The FOP’s approval of the contract was announced Wednesday during Huntington City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial, who has served as the lead fiduciary during negotiations, said this contract has been a long time coming and will provide needed relief to retirees who are struggling under the city’s new insurance.

One of those changes will allow retirees to pull funds from the Retirees’ Insurance Supplemental Fund even if they are not on the city’s insurance plan.

Dial said the money for the fund comes from the salaries of current officers who defer 5 percent of their income into the fund to aid retirees.

He added that this was an option added by the city after the FOP voted down a previous contract proposal.

The contract also sets the minimum number of police officers at 98; raises the reimbursement value of damaged personal property to S500 (it was previously $200); and includes two 2-percent wage increases, the first backdated to July 1, 2017, and the second to occur July 1, 2018, among other benefits.

“Our primary objective in our contract negotiations with FOP Gold Star Lodge 65 was to provide financial security for our law enforcement officers, law enforcement retirees, their families and for city operations,” Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said in a statement Wednesday. “This contract that was approved by the FOP accomplishes that objective by providing certainty as it relates to health insurance, retirement and operational costs. Most importantly, it assures our

citizens that the city of Huntington will continue to provide the professional, world-class service and protection they expect and deserve.”

Cathy Burns, the city manager, said the contract will take effect upon approval by Huntington City Council on Monday, Dec. 11, but is contingent on the FOP dropping its lawsuit against the city regarding the contract.

The FOP filed suit in March regarding changes to their health care plan, which resulted in higher deductibles and co-pays for many employees and retirees.

The most significant changes occurred in the plans for pre-Medicare retirees. City officials said these changes would result in an annual savings of $1.6 million for the city.

Dial said the FOP was aware of this stipulation prior to the vote. He added that attorneys representing the FOP are writing an order to dismiss the lawsuit, which will be filed with County Circuit Judge Gregory Howard, who is presiding over the case.

Although the exact numbers were not made public, according to the FOP’s bylaws, the contract proposal must be ratified by a minimum of a two-thirds majority of the officers and retirees who voted. FOP Gold Star Lodge 65 represents the 95 active Huntington police officers and all Huntington police retirees.