HUNTINGTON – The Fraternal Order of Police Gold Star Lodge 65 says the city of Huntington has violated the terms of its collective bargaining agreement.

The union filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Cabell Circuit Court earlier in March, alleging that when the city announced in February that it would change the health care plan, resulting in higher deductibles and co-pays for participants, it violated state code and its contract with the lodge.

The union is attempting to block the changes to the healthcare coverage for current and retired police officers that is scheduled to take effect April 1.

The union claims by implementing the changes to the benefits without approval of the lodge is a breach of contract.

The changes give the city an annual savings of $1.6 million. However, for several pre-Medicare retirees, the deductibles more than quadrupled by going from $250 to $2,000 for single plans.

The union claims by changing insurance carriers and not assuring that all retirees, spouses, dependents and spouses and dependents of any deceased members are guaranteed acceptance at the same cost for the same coverage as regular employees, it violated West Virginia code.

The city also violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement by failing to maintain an adequate staffing level, according to the suit.

No hearing date has been set yet regarding the lodge’s injunction.

The city released a statement, stating that it negotiated in good faith with the union in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement governing the terms and conditions of employment for its police officers.

“This lawsuit, if successful, would completely undermine the City's ability to afford any improvements in wages, benefits or other terms and conditions of employment,” the statement read. “Given the relief requested in the lawsuit, the mayor has informed the FOP that it will put negotiations on hiatus until there is a ruling in the litigation. We cannot bargain effectively while significant economic issues remain unresolved."

In January, the city laid off 17 employees from the police department to help with the deficit in the city’s budget.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Gregory Howard.

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