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The City Council will consider, at today’s meeting, a police officer’s labor grievance that could significantly shape the benefits for hundreds of city workers who have returned to the city workforce after previously resigning.

The police union will be arguing that Officer Jeff Chione should be allowed to take the amount of annual leave that is afforded to employees who were hired before July 1994 because he joined the city five years before that cutoff mark. The city, however, notes that he left the city in 1992 and that his leave allowance should be tied to his rehire date in 1995, after the stricter leave cap was enacted.

The Mayor’s Office notes that 238 employees have situations that are similar to Chione’s because they returned to the city after a restriction was added in negotiations for new hires. Fred Sainz, the mayor’s spokesman, said that the precedent of this issue could also affect the 2005 labor provisions to bar new hires from auxiliary pension benefits – such as the 13th check, retiree health and DROP – that have been thought to have become a burden on the city’s checkbook as it faces billion-dollar deficits for pension and retiree health costs.

“This is a threshold issue for us,” Sainz said.

A council hearing over a labor grievance is very rare – Sainz said it hasn’t happened for 30 years – and only happens when an employee or its union pushes a dispute beyond a ruling from the city’s Labor Relations Office.

If dissatisfied with the council’s decision Tuesday, the police union could file a lawsuit, as it has on disputes over overtime pay and pension funding.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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