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POLC quickly negotiates first contract for Arenac Corrections

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: March 30, 2018

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Arenac County Corrections Employees existing contract hadn’t yet expired, but they were more than ready to leave their former Union and become new members of the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC) in November 2017.

With their Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) contract set to expire Dec. 31, POLC representation ensured enforcement of the existing contract. But before it expired, the POLC had already negotiated a new contract, which became effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The POAM represented the 12-member group over two decades until Arenac County Road Patrol decided to part ways with Corrections. “They got an increase in the road millage and thought they would do better on their next contract without us,” said Kirk Adams, vice president of the local Corrections union. “There were no hard feelings from us; they kind of had more members so, when it came down to a vote, it swung their way.

The split occurred in the fall of 2017. “It was approved by MERC and that’s when we started looking elsewhere to get away from POAM,” Adams said.

Adams said their POAM rep had a lot of other units to represent. “We just weren’t getting the personal attention we thought we should,” Adams said. “The road patrol had more members and he just went with the majority rules.”

They decided a fresh start was in order and POLC Labor Rep. Jason Owen didn’t waste any time getting to know the County’s negotiations team. He held a meet and greet in November to introduce himself to the Employer.

“Our dispatch has POLC and they spoke highly of them and we called a few other counties and tried to get some information and we just heard great stuff about Jason Owen,” Adams said. “Everything just kind of took off when we got a hold of him. He was one of the only representatives we could find that actually had a background in corrections too.”

Owen retired as an Allegan County Sheriffs’ Office Corrections Deputy, who served as a POLC local Chief Steward for eight years. He worked as a State of Michigan Department of Corrections Officer for seven years and was active in Michigan Corrections Organization. “It’s been outstanding just from the start,” Adams said. “I sent Jason an email and within an hour he was on the phone and telling us what to do to get switched over to POLC. If it’s 3 in the morning, he’ll answer his phone. He’s just very easy to get a hold of.”

Owen helped the group negotiate a two-year agreement with increases to their Top Pay Step and a $300 lump sum payment. Sergeants received an additional boost in pay with a change in their differentials. Instead of receiving a lump sum annual payment of $800, their differential is now 5 percent above a Corrections Officer’s salary. In 2018, this amounts to over $2,000 extra and that amount increases again in 2019. “When you change it to a percentage, it now increases according to wages,” Owen said. “As the increases go with the Officers’ pay increases, then that differential increases exponentially.”

The Corrections Officers were also awarded 24 extra hours of Holiday Pay for a total of 120 hours annually; expanded family funeral leave; and the Employer shall convert Overtime to Comp Time upon Employee request. “They always had the ability to transfer (Overtime) over, but we changed it. It is not a discretionary thing,” Owen said. “The Employer has to give it to them if they request it.”

The group’s biggest concern going into negotiations was maintaining good medical insurance. “Right now we have decent insurance. Our co-pays are minimal and our monthly payment is minimal,” however, Adams said prior to negotiation of the new contract, “Everything is going up and it doesn’t sound like the County wants to pay or can pay anymore.”

In the new contract, POLC was able to maintain the low co-pays with a slight increase in the Employees’ monthly premium payment. “There was a small increase in Employee share, but they maintained the same plan, the same co-pays,” Owen said.

Owen was also able to negotiate zero Employee premium cost for dental and vision coverage. Not only did they maintain good coverage, they had a section of their old contract removed which required working spouses to maintain their own group health insurance. Now working spouses can join the health insurance plan, and do so without any penalty charge just because other health coverage is available.

Owen has proven he possesses the knowledge and experience needed to represent Arenac County Corrections Employees and, most importantly, will make himself available to address their day-to-day concerns.

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