Douglas Officials Approve Local Police Contract Deal; Union Needs To Ratify
Following a short closed session to discuss the matter, the Douglas City Council Monday night approved a labor settlement between the city and the local police officers union.
An agreement has long been coming, as talks between the parties started back in July 2013.
The Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department union is expected to soon meet to ratify the settlement to make it valid and final.
Monday’s council action staved off arbitration which loomed large following failed attempts to reach a compromise in negotiations, then mediation.
Still, this settlement does not settle all things because it does not include an important component: health insurance and how much the city would contribute.
“Everything has remained the same as it was before going into negotiations except the health insurance component,” Douglas City Manager William LeFevere told Observer Newspapers after the meeting Monday.
“Insurance is what hanged us up last summer,” said Michael Woronko, the legal counsel and the union labor representative for the local police department.
“We are making insurance a completely separate issue (a renegotiated issue with its own agreement).”
Previously, the union sought an HAS-type of plan (health savings account) with a city contribution of $3,500 of the $4,000 total deductible.
But besides that being a contentious issue, neither party knows how the federal Affordable Health Care Act - known as Obamacare - will factor into whatever health plan is chosen.
“Obamacare may have some plans we are eligible for,” said Woronko. “It does no good to be awarded an arbitration (if the case had gone that far) and still have to renegotiate on insurance after that.”
The settlement made no changes to paid vacations - anywhere between 40 hours and 160 hours - according to how many years the officer has worked at the department. 160 hours is applied to those that have 10 years under their belt.
Citing the need for final approval by both parties, neither Woronko nor city officials provided the Observer with a copy of the proposed settlement.
However, a final approved settlement may include what is a usual wage rate increase in police union contracts, anywhere between a
0% and 2% increase, said Woronko.
The current wage rate for police officers is between $18.82 and $24.54 an hour.