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Wayland Employees gain raises, benefits with GELC

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: April 11, 2019

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Retired GELC Labor Rep. Will Keizer will be remembered by Wayland Supervisory and Non-Supervisory Employees for helping them not only preserve but gain additional benefits by joining the Union just before he retired.

Keizer was the POLC Labor Rep. for Wayland Police, a group represented by the Union since 1995, when non-represented Wayland City workers learned city officials had plans to cut their Vacation, Comp and Personal Time. “They had visions of taking away a whole lot and still not adjust our wages,” said City Clerk Michelle Herman, Alternate Steward of Wayland Supervisors local unit. “We were on a wage freeze for just under three years and when the freeze came off they weren’t real generous. We were not getting anywhere, and it didn’t look like it was going to change.”

So, they began talking with Keizer, who introduced them to the POLC’s sister organization, GELC, and New Labor Rep. Dave Thomas. “The Clerk knew me from sitting across the table from me, representing the City (during) police negotiations,” Keizer said.

“Will Keizer reached out and Dave has done a beautiful job taking the ball and running the rest of the game with it,” Herman said.

The groups started talking with the GELC in May and by April 2018, both groups voted unanimously to join the Union. Contracts talks started and by fall their first contracts were settled with wage and benefit improvements and the assurance of knowing they had a say in what happened to them.

“Council hadn’t taken away any benefits yet,” said Jason Huggett, local union president of Wayland Non-Supervisory. “There had been a group put together to review that stuff and they had been revising the handbook, but nothing was set in stone yet. By going as fast as we did, we were able to stop that very quickly.”

“Once we got looking into it further, we were kind of low on the wages compared to others,” Huggett said.

The GELC-negotiated 2-1/2-year agreements, including 3.5% wage increases Jan. 1, 2019, followed by a 1.25% increase in Jan. 2020 and a 1.25% increase in July 2020 for both groups. “This contract got the wages brought up to current market value. We were way behind on the wages,” Herman said.

“Everybody seems really happy with that and our groups feel more comfortable now having the protection,” Huggett said. “They don’t have to worry about losing holidays and everything is in black and white and they know what’s coming to them.”

Increased benefits for both groups range from a boost in equipment allowance from $300 to $500, tuition reimbursement increased from $1,500 to $4,000 annually, two additional paid holidays, new meal and cell phone allowances, full Employer paid coffee service, and being able to bank 325 hours of Sick Time, which can be used toward their final average compensation for pension.

“Those guys on those plows that go into work at 3 in the morning should get a good cup of coffee and the supplies that you need to have full coffee service,” Herman said.

Herman said the contract supersedes much of the old 2007 Employee handbook. “The way our handbook read it didn’t do a good job defining hourly from salary as to how they are paid with Comp Time, whether or not you get it,” Herman said. “Supervisory doesn’t get Comp Time. We can flex a little bit of our hourly. Salary can’t do that with hours. Current labor laws brought us up to speed and set aside an obsolete handbook and put us all in a better place.”

The GELC helped keep healthcare affordable with low Employee premium contributions and Employer provided health savings accounts matching contributions up to $400 annually. Retirement benefits spelled out vesting for current Employees (6 years) and new Employees (10 years). Current Employees maintained their 2.5% multiplier in MERS B4 Defined Benefit (DB). Those hired after Oct. 1, 2018 have a 2% multiplier for MERS DB.

“It turned out to be a really mutually respectful session,” Herman said. “The new City Manager is awesome. We went to a whole new system. We start accruing vacation from the first day (of work) instead of waiting six months. It’s brought us up to modern standard.”

Smaller municipal employee groups considering unionization or changing unions shouldn’t remain status quo just because of their size. The two Wayland groups combined have 13 members and receive as much attention from GELC as their larger counterparts.

“If you’re poorly represented, come to the GELC — we will take care of you,” Keizer said earlier this year. “I have four months left of employment, and I went out and recruited two new units. I really believe in this organization. These types of groups need to see there’s something out there for them, to protect them.”

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