By DANIEL HERATY
HEIGHTS – Union employees at the 20th District Court soon could see their contract extended, along with a few other modifications.
City Council members voted 6-1 to approve the contracts Tuesday, pending review by Mayor Daniel Paletko, the Human Resources Department and City Attorney Gary Miotke.
“There are still some issues that need to be cleared up,” Paletko said.
In the new deal, retired and active nonunion employees will receive the same health insurance and cost sharing toward benefits as the union employees.
Councilman Thomas Berry, voted no on the contracts, saying they should have been done a long time ago, and as a result, cost the city more money in the long run.
“This contract is four years old,” he said. “Technically we should be renegotiating the contract, but we’ve extended this one.
“The process failed not only the union members, but failed the city,” Berry said. “The union members lost out, and I think so did the city.”
The new deal will extend the existing contract through June 2016 and employees now will have the option of using personal time, including vacation and sick time to help offset the cost of the insurance. Those who are on short-term disability will be able to receive up to 60 percent of their weekly salary up to $500 per week.
Insurance coverage also will increase, from $30,000 to $50,000 for life insurance and from $50,000 to $100,000 for accident insurance.
Another change to the health insurance could include retirees having 1.5 percent of their pension paid to the city every year, or having it drawn directly out of their monthly checks.
Those who have been on a prescription drug for at least six months before any other health care provisions go into effect will be grandfathered in, instead of having to go into step therapy, which requires that the individual try medications that are more cost-effective. Employees would be able to attend college with city reimbursement. Those who earn a grade point average of 3.0 or higher will be eligible for a 100 percent reimbursement, and those who get at 2.5 average will get a 50 percent reimbursement.
Also at the meeting, an agreement was reached between the city and the University of Michigan-Dearborn that will allow members of the Police Department to enroll there as either a graduate or undergraduate student for any program for which they are eligible.
Police Chief Lee Gavin said the program is open to those who want to continue to further their education in law enforcement, but employees can take classes that can be used in the field, such as psychology.
The agreement said eligible employees will receive a 20 percent credit toward the full tuition, in addition to any assistance offered by the city or for the Police Department.
There also will be a review board, made up of two members of the university and the police Department, which will oversee the operations and the possible extension of the agreement, which is set to expire December 31, 2014.
Miotke said that in the future the program could be expanded, but right now, it is a benefit financially.
“This will cut our costs with respect to those employees,” he said. “This is a great thing to reduce costs to the city and increase enrollment at UM-Dearborn. It’s a win-win.”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected])