Posted by: Jennifer Foley Posted date: October 7, 2016
— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Utica Patrol & Dispatch were not pleased when the POAM failed to negotiate their wage reopener from 2015. It was one of a number of problems they had with their former union, which led them to leave and become members of the POLC in April.
“They should have been handling the wage reopener and that just shows what type of representation they had with POAM,” said POLC Labor Rep. Scott Blackwell. “They weren’t doing their job going into the 312 wage reopener. That’s nine months worth of not doing what they should have been doing … and that’s why they voted to decertify them. We had to pick up the pieces and avoided arbitration.”
Michael Roberts, President of Utica Patrol & Dispatch, said his group was concerned the POAM may bail during the union transition since the arbitration hearing was set during the timeframe they had to switch unions, but POLC representatives promised they would and legally could handle the wage reopener. Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) rules allow a unit to decertify and recertify with another representative during a 90 to 120 day window prior to expiration of the contract.
“I think POAM didn’t want to go to arbitration on it and neither did the City,” Roberts said. “They were hoping that POLC would take over. I spoke with (POLC Membership Services Rep.) Lloyd (Whetstone) about that. That happened to be the timeframe the arb was scheduled … 90-120 days. Lloyd guaranteed (POLC) would step up to the plate and they did.”
“(Union representatives) are not allowed to talk with the group until you’re certified to represent them. The day I was certified, at the end of April, I met with Utica Patrol and ended up working out their wage reopener July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016,” Blackwell said. “They had this wage reopener going to 312 arbitration. POAM dropped them.”
The POLC handled the matter without arbitration, successfully negotiating a 3.5 percent raise for both Patrol & Dispatch for the past year. Blackwell said two percent of the raise is retroactive back to July 2015 because the group agreed to give up their daily 15 minutes of extra pay for show up time, shift prep time, or comp time retroactive to July 1.
“They actually got a 3.5 percent pay raise for this year and 2 percent of that is retroactive back to July 1, 2015,” Blackwell said. “They’ve already been paid that money.”
Roberts recounted problems with the POAM that led them to make the switch away from a union that represented them over a decade. “Really I wasn’t happy with the rep,” Roberts said. “Overall we just didn’t think we were getting the service we were paying for. We had two or three people terminated that went through arbitration and POAM didn’t get their jobs back. We just didn’t feel like we were getting our money’s worth so basically it was time to change.”
POLC now represents 10 full-time Utica Road Patrol, two Sergeants and up to three part-time Officers, four full-time Utica Dispatchers and one part-time Dispatcher.
“POAM allowed part-time dispatchers into our Dispatch department. That happened about seven years ago. It was kind of done without everyone’s knowledge,” Roberts said. “The dispatchers knew about it, but Patrol really wasn’t up to date with what was happening with that. That was one strike with POAM.”
Strike two came when POAM convinced Patrol that having part-time Officers was the way to go to settle their last contract. “The last contract we allowed three part-time Officers to come to the department. The mediator said the City would get it,” Roberts said. “We have zero hired within the city right now. We told the City it would be a revolving door when part timers come in and that’s exactly what happened. According the Chief, they can’t fill (the positions). No one is interested.”
“That’s an issue we are going to work on during this next negotiation. Obviously if you’re not going to hire the part timers to help fill those shifts, it just creates a lot of work for everybody else,” Roberts said. “We’re probably down about four full-timers from around 2009. In our case, we’re small and when you promote from Road Patrol, now they’re in administration. The bodies are there, but they’re not on the road anymore. It just keeps pulling from Road Patrol. Road Patrol is what suffers most.”
Roberts said Patrol used to be much larger in the late 1990s, but after years of attrition under the POAM’s watch the past 14 years, those numbers have dwindled. “I just didn’t think POAM would help us with that, so we decided to jump ship,” Roberts said.
Roberts said one of the part-time Officers positions has been vacant a year, another 6 months and another for two months. That’s due to the low pay and lack of benefits those Officers receive, Roberts said, adding they make less than $20 per hour.
“Starting wage is $18 or $19 an hour, but that doesn’t get you a good quality person and they won’t stay,” Roberts said, adding that full-timers in some communities make nearly $40 an hour by the time they factor in holidays and overtime. “By the time you outfit them, buy the gear, and do the training, how long does it take you to recoup those dollars? I don’t think the City sees the savings because they don’t stay long enough. Until they miss Christmas or their kid’s birthday party, I don’t think (part-timers) really realize what they signed up for.”