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GELC gives Bloomfield Township Department Heads assurance for jobs well done

Posted by: jgomori Posted date: March 15, 2021

By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Bloomfield Township Department Heads have always been at will employees, but now they have their first bargaining agreement and some rights they didn’t have before thanks to the GELC.

Prior to representation by the GELC, their Employer didn’t need a personal performance reason to dismiss them. “We’ve always been at will here at the Township … but we got a severance package that defined the just cause in there,” said Noah Mehalski, Bloomfield Township Director of Public Works. “We have to commit a negligent act. The contract narrowly defined what just cause is. We can’t be fired unless we breach one of those just cause provisions in the contract.”

GELC Labor Rep. Chet Kulesza helped the group negotiate that severance package. Now if a Department Head is fired due to budget cuts or any reason not related to poor job performance, they must be paid three years of their salary.

“We thought that was a better situation for us,” said Mehalski, the local union president. “We wanted to protect ourselves from people coming in and just making changes. It puts some controls in place.”

With GELC assistance the group also worked out a vehicle compensation package. Formerly all Township Department Heads were given company vehicles. Now only those considered to be “first responders” have company vehicles. However, those who no longer have their company vehicle receive a payout totaling $8,000 pro-rated over 26 pay periods. “We have vehicles as part of our compensation,” Mehalski said. “We codified it … a buyout program where you could take the vehicle or lump sum in paychecks.”

The 13-member group interviewed other labor unions, but Mehalski said they had an inside perspective into the benefits of GELC representation through the “historic relationship” with the Township Police Department.

“Once I talked with the police department and one of our officers on the board (GELC Executive Committee member John Huizdos), I kind of had an inside look at you guys,” Mehalski said.

Of the four groups GELC now represents in Bloomfield Township, Mehalski said, “We were an odd duck for them.”

“We are treated truly like executives of our own departments. I literally was representing my people on one end and the Township on the other,” Mehalski said. “(The GELC) wrote all the language for all the other groups. He (Labor Rep. Kulesza) allowed me to take the lead on it, but when I needed him, Chet and the lawyers were right there for me, so that was great.”

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