Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle Wednesday announced a tentative contract with the Police Union. A key change in the contract is that it will end the practice of "spiking" that has fueled public anger. Spiking allowed some officers to retire with lifetime pensions of $70, $80 and $90 thousand dollars a year.
"Spiking is a serious concern for the citizens, and that concern has been met with decisive action on the part of both the association and the administration," said Mayor Suttle.
Under the proposed agreement, pensions will be calculated by averaging an officer's overtime throughout his or her career.
The agreement also calls for a wage freeze for the next two years.
But in an unusual move, the contract does not spell out what increases the union members will get in the 3rd, 4th and 5th years. Instead, it simply includes language that says their wages will be comparable and competitive as defined by the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations.
It is unclear if there is any limit on the increase in pay union members could receive as long as the commission says they are competitive.
"One important component of this is the knowledge that we're shoring up our pension plan. That's important, that's important to police officers and their families, it's important to current retirees, and it's important to taxpayers," said Police Union President, Aaron Hanson.
In a tentative agreement with the Fire Union announced in August, Suttle agreed to give firefighters raises totaling around 18% over a three year period.
Additionally, a program called "DROP" will be set up as a supplemental retirement plan. It encourages officers to remain employed longer even if their pension benefits are maxed out. "We wanted to make that decision very difficult for them, we wanted to give them incentive, to not retire, but to stay," said Hanson.
"Both the city and the police officers' association have agreed that this program will terminate at the end of the fifth year, if it does not prove cost neutral," said Mayor Suttle.
The contract also adds a wellness program for officers and their families, and it provides health care, with increases in premiums set up like the increase in wages, comparable to other cities our size.
However, that dollar figure, like future pay raises, is yet to be determined.
The tentative agreement will now be taken to the police union members, who can make changes and vote on it. After that it will go to the city council for a vote, and finally back to Mayor Suttle for final approval.
Mayor Suttle says it could still be weeks before a contract is signed.