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City police union sues city of Hudson over health insurance

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City police union sues city of Hudson over health insurance
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) is suing the city of Hudson over the city's decision to stop contributing funds to Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA).

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Payments stopped when the union's collective bargaining agreement ended at the end of 2011. HRA funds are intended to be used to make up the difference for a higher deductible in insurance coverage.

The suit is essentially intended to define the language surrounding the city's lack of HRA contributions since Jan. 1. During that time, the city and WPPA have been engaged in collective bargaining negotiations.

Under a 2009 and 2010 agreement the city contributed a base amount of $1,750 to a full-time officer's HRA for single coverage and $3,500 for family coverage.

The city maintains that under current state law the HRA funds do not have to be part of the negotiations, the WPPA disagrees.

The suit was filed April 13 in St. Croix County Circuit Court. Representing the WPPA is Madison attorney Roger Palek. He released the following media statement:

"Although public safety employees were exempted from most of the changes to the Municipal Employees Relations Act, the changes did make negotiating over the health insurance plan design and its impact a prohibited subject of bargaining. In this case the City has taken the position that Health Reimbursement Arrangements, language that had been negotiated in good faith previously were part of the health insurance plan design. We believe this is a significant overreach by the City from the statutory definition in the law. We are therefore asking the court to declare whether or not this language is part of the plan design. We believe it is not and that the circuit court will agree. We believe the court will ultimately resolve the dispute in a timely manner."

Another WPPA representative, Business Manager Al Bitz, did not return calls by press time.

Eau Claire attorney Steve Weld is representing the city of Hudson in WPPA matters. He claims the Wisconsin budget bill changed the rules for public safety bargaining. He says that health insurance plan design is no longer a subject for bargaining.

The Hudson Police Department's local union rep is Detective Geoff Willems. He declined comment on the matter.

The city has 20 days from April 13 to answer the charges.

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