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Hamburg Patrol, Command resolve to settle better contract with POLC’s help

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: April 23, 2018

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Hamburg Township Patrol and Command were preparing for mediation with their Employer six months after their contract expired when they decided to change directions, switching their Union representation in December 2017. Now with POLC, their New Year’s resolution is to avoid repeating past negotiations practices.

“The Township representation wanted us to begin to pay more toward our pension plan and we already pay 7 percent toward that and we have for quite a long time,” said Hamburg Township Police Det. Sgt. Gary Harpe, local Command Union President. “We went from 3 percent to 4 percent to 7 percent. Through our actuaries, we were able to figure out they weren’t paying any additional money other than the minimum amount. We weren’t willing to do any increase given past history.”

Furthermore, Harpe said, the unfunded liability was caused by earlier decisions not involving existing employees. When the Township established the pensions in the MERS system years ago, Harpe said, some Employees already had 10-15 years of service. Those Employees did not contribute to a pension plan the first 10-15 years they worked, yet were given full pensions and benefits upon retirement, Harpe said.

“They wanted us to help them pay for unfunded liability that doesn’t have to do with the officers that currently work there,” Harpe said. “When we agreed to the increase, what we paid was supposed to be additional money above and beyond the annual (MERS) payment.” However, Harpe said, “As we increased what we paid, they would lower the amount they would pay by the same exact amount. So there was no additional money going into the plan. It was supposed to be a partnership to increase the funding of the plan. Over the years, we’ve attempted to address that. The Township has found a way to not cover their end of the deal.”

The four-member Command unit and 11-member Patrol unit had been negotiating together through Michigan Association of Police (MAP) and the pension issue and health care stalled negotiations. Officer Justin Harvey, Hamburg Township local Patrol Union President, said the Township is seeking health care cost sharing. Currently the department does not contribute to health care premiums. “They were wanting us to pay a percentage (of health care premiums) and we haven’t been able to see eye to eye on that yet,” Harvey said.

The Township responded by filing for mediation and Union members became disheartened with their representation’s lack of progress since the contract expired July 1, 2017. “We had been with MAP for so long and we weren’t moving forward as quickly as we were wanting to,” Harvey said, adding that MAP has been their only Union representation since the inauguration of the department in the early 1980s.

“Much of the contract we were able to come to agreement, but when it comes to this we are sticking to our guns. They’ve been taking advantage of us,” Harpe said of pensions. “We ultimately decided we needed to change unions.”

“I spoke with other friends who had POLC and wanted to see what they would say,” Harvey said of officers from the Village of Orchard Lake and Wixom. One is a medium size department and one is smaller size. Both said POLC fought hard for both units regardless of the size. “That’s important. We have 11 people, but we don’t want to be pushed aside because we’re not a 200-man department,” Harvey said. “I liked that and that they (Wixom) had been with POLC at least two or three decades and they had nothing bad to say about POLC.”

Harvey did a little research of his own. “I went on the POLC website and I saw another agency our size had recently switched to POLC,” Harvey said.

Sgt. Harpe invited the Union to meet with their negotiations teams in the fall of 2017. Lloyd Whetstone, POLC Membership Services, and POLC Research Analyst Nancy Ciccone came out and presented information on the Union to the Hamburg local negotiations teams.

“I passed it on to the members of our Patrol unit and the rest is history,” Harvey said, adding that both units voted unanimously to join the POLC.

POLC Labor Rep. Scott Blackwell is representing the units in negotiations. “Both units were going into mediation, but it never got that far,” Blackwell said in December. “Once the groups decided to terminate their relationship with MAP, all that got put on hold.”

With POLC at the helm, they are optimistic about reaching a fair agreement. “They (Township representatives) keep talking about having benchmarks. These are their own ideas – where they think the Township should be financially,” Harpe said. “I would like to negotiate, if they’re willing to. It’s the Township that requested mediation. Ultimately, it’s up to them.”

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