Champaign police get new contract

Champaign police get new contract

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign police have a new three-year contract and, starting early next year, they'll have a new four-day workweek.

The Champaign City Council, at its meeting this week, approved a three-year contract with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council 253, which represents the city's 108 police officers. The union approved the contract on April 19.

The contract, which takes effect July 1, calls for annual 3 percent salary increases. It was negotiated in seven sessions.

Under the current contract, city police receive base salaries totaling $5.69 million. By the third year of the new contract, in 2006-2007, the base level of salaries will increase to $6.22 million at current staffing levels.

But the biggest change the contract will bring about will be, starting Feb. 1, a switch to a four-day per week, 10-hour-per-day workweek. That's a switch from the department's current practice of a five-day workweek with eight-hour shifts.

City Personnel Director Chris Bezruki said the police union has been interested in a four-day workweek "for a number of years," and was willing to make compromises with the city to make it happen.

"I think they've always had a concern that they put in a lot of overtime," Bezruki said. "A 10-hour-a-day week helps us control our overtime and gives them an extra day off. It certainly can be win-win."

The city's main concern was that a shift to a four-day workweek not increase city costs. To accommodate that concern, the union agreed to make a change where, starting Feb. 1, the first three hours of overtime beyond 40 hours per week will be paid at the regularly hourly wage, instead of time and a half.

Forgoing those first three hours of overtime will save the city an estimated $151,000 and another contract change, which would change the annual medical exam of officers to every other year, will save another $25,000 for the city. The city will use the savings to pay for the hiring of two additional police sergeants, who will provide additional patrol supervision that the city believes is necessary under a four-day-a-week schedule.

Lt. Holly Nearing, who helped negotiate the contract representing management, said the specifics about 10-hour shift starting times are "not set in stone yet" and will be determined in coming months. She said one tentative schedule under consideration would have four different starting times during a day, with one 10-hour shift starting in the early morning, another starting in the late morning, a third starting in early evening and a fourth shift starting in the late evening.

"We have to determine what the best times are," she said. "Of course, we want overlap during our busiest times."

Officer Jeff Munds, chairman of the union's negotiating committee, said union membership wanted a shorter workweek, but didn't want to work a 12-hour day, as is the case with Urbana police. The membership asked that the union attempt to secure the four-day, 10-hour shift work week.

Urbana police work three days one week and four days the next week, working 12-hour shifts, according to Urbana Police Chief Eddie Adair, who said the arrangement has worked out "extremely well for us."

Besides giving Champaign officers an extra day off, the 10-hour per shift change will mean more officers on the street during the busiest times, which will benefit police as well as Champaign residents, Munds said.

Munds said giving up the first three hours of overtime represented "the union commitment and buy-in," but will not be binding beyond the current contract term.

Both sides agree the change in hours is "experimental" and can be canceled by either side after the first full year of implementation, Bezruki said. He said the city's biggest concern would be a lack of overtime savings.

If more money is saved in overtime than is needed to fund the two sergeant positions, the city is agreeing to give back the savings to the police "in a proportional and equitable manner."

City Police Chief R.T. Finney, who formerly worked as chief in Carbondale, had officers working 10-hour shifts in his previous job and was willing to try the new arrangement, Bezruki added.

You can reach Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at mmonson@news-gazette.com.

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