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Sanilac Dispatchers reorganize, switch unions

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: October 5, 2017

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Sanilac County Dispatchers were in the same bargaining unit as Sanilac County Deputies for years, but when the County decided to reorganize public safety, they sought their own representation.

The Dispatchers decided against staying with POAM, which represents the Deputies, opting to join the POLC instead. “They were carved out and made into their own separate unit,” said POLC Labor Rep. Scott Blackwell, however, he said, “They could’ve stayed with POAM.”

“I’ve been here almost 17 years and we’ve always been with POAM,” said Connie Smith, local union president. “We separated from the sheriff’s office on July 1, 2016 and became our own department. That is the direction the County wanted us to go in.”

But it was the dispatchers’ decision to change representation after hearing what POLC had to offer. “We were just looking for something a little bit different,” Smith said. “We had sat in a meeting with POLC and we liked what they had to say. I liked the more one-on-one care with Scott (Blackwell). One of the big reasons (we switched) is there is a lawyer to help fight your battle if needed.”

The POLC recently settled a three-year contract for the 10-member group with pay raises. Smith liked the fact that the seven full-time and three part-timers are receiving the same benefits as other county employees. “We received a wage increase and a pretty well-rounded contract for us,” Smith said.

Blackwell said some structural changes in the contract were needed to provide similar benefits to Dispatchers. “They don’t need a boot allowance,” Blackwell said.

Smith was pleased the POLC was able to find a way to turn benefits they didn’t need into income. “We got longevity pay in lieu of equipment and cleaning allowance,” Smith said. Based on the number of years worked, that pay ranges from $300 to $700 annually.

“We just incorporated that with the longevity pay, not losing money by separating,” Smith said. “Our goal was to really stay status quo when we separated.”

One of the ways the POLC prevented them from losing money was fighting for their Defined Benefit pensions. The Employer wanted to take away DB pensions from existing employees and replace them with Defined Contribution (DC) plans, which are invested in the stock market. Blackwell fought for the group’s existing DB pension retirement plan and saved it. “Their pension did not change,” Blackwell said.

He was also able to ensure retirement benefits for new hires. New hires after Jan. 1, 2017 will be placed into DC retirement plans.

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