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POLC makes gains for reinstated department

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: March 29, 2017

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

POLC representatives took a proactive approach to settling a new contract for Flushing Township Police. They negotiated and settled a bargaining agreement early with township officials, ensuring a steady transition with a newly elected board taking over in January 2017.

Flushing Township Police contract will expire March 31, 2017, but the POLC opted to get negotiations underway before the end of 2016, while the existing board they’ve been working with the past several years was still in place.

“All seven board members are newly elected so there was some uncertainty as to their thoughts or plans for the police department so we negotiated a five year contract before it expires to give the community some assurance that they’re going to have police protection and give the officers some job security as well,” said Det. Mark Bolin, local Union Vice President.

“We’re very grateful that we negotiated five years and received some very good enhancements and we’re all very happy with it,” Bolin said. “It had been several years since we had got an increase in our wages.”

Their new contract, which begins April 1, 2017, heads off future potential problems for retirees by eliminating an Employer cap for the Defined Benefit (DB) pension. “Looking down the road it was imperative to get that cap removed because we have since went to a Defined Contribution (DC) pension for new hires. That cap could’ve certainly come back to haunt us,” Bolin said.

“We didn’t want to go to the DC for new hires, but it seemed like it was in everybody’s best interest,” Bolin said. “All the full timers right now have DB. They had a cap on our DB, so we negotiated future hires going to a Defined Contribution for the future cap removal on employees.”

With the department being so small, Bolin said, the cap on Employer contributions could have put an enormous financial burden on current hires. He gave an example of the five-member department having three retired officers collecting pensions.

“With a cap on the Employer, it would require the employees to pay the difference,” he said. “If you and I quit paying our social security today, they (social security) would stop paying tomorrow. We were banking on new hires constantly contributing to the fund. If they don’t rehire people, the funding would become lopsided and it would require individual employees to pay a lot into their pension.”

There’s no question POLC representatives are looking out for Flushing Township Police’s future. The Union pulled out all the stops in 2012-2013 to get the unit reinstated as a police force after the Township disbanded their department. Officers were awaiting an Act 312 arbitration hearing in February 2012 when the former township board suddenly laid off the department, voted to eliminate the collective bargaining agreement, and approved a contract with Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. The layoffs were grieved based on their contract, which requires layoffs be due to “a limitation of funds.”

Township attorneys cited falling revenue and unfunded liability as reasons for the layoffs and claimed there was a substantial cost savings by contracting with Genesee. However, POLC Labor Attorney Tom Zulch proved funds were available due to a police millage, which pays 100 percent of department costs. He also proved the Sheriff’s Department was more expensive. The Arbitrator’s ruling stated the layoffs were in violation of the collective bargaining agreement because there was no limitation of funds to warrant them.

The January 2013 arbitration win allowed the POLC to get the department reinstated with backpay to February 2012, less any money they gained from working other jobs during the layoff period. The POLC then negotiated a new four-year, nine-month contract with Flushing Township on behalf of the Officers and Sergeants.

“We couldn’t be happier with POLC and we have certainly received and fielded a lot of calls regarding POLC and put good recommendations in for them,” Bolin said. “We’re kind of like the poster child of what could’ve been had we not won our arbitration. Things could’ve been a lot different for a lot of places and it was a key decision that prevented a lot of other places from following suit.”

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