Local Police Contract Held Up As Douglas Officials Balk At Including Health Proviso, Says Union
A concern over “language” has led the latest proposed employment contract between the City of Douglas and its police force to impending arbitration where an arbitrator, acting as a legal judge, will issue an order meant to settle any and all differences.
The latest development comes following failed attempts by both sides to reach a compromise in negotiations and then mediation.
At last Monday’s meeting, the Douglas City Council moved into closed session to discuss the city’s ongoing labor negotiations with the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department.
“I am not being flippant here at all. I have never encountered this before. I can’t get my head around the rationale of the city for not settling this,” said Michael Woronko, the legal counsel and the union labor representative for the local police department.
“I think we are in agreement on the economics part, but not language. Without the proper language being included in the contract, the economics issue is a worthless and empty promise,” said Woronko.
He claims the city refuses to include the health-care contribution it previously agreed to in the written contract.
“We accepted the offer for an HSA-type of plan (health savings account) and for the city to contribute $3,500 of the $4,000 total deductible in each employees’ HSA account,” said Woronko.
Douglas City Manager William LeFevere did not return calls from Observer Newspapers for comment about the upcoming arbitration.
Depending on how long they’ve been employed, the current wage rate for police officers is between $18.82 and $24.54 an hour.
The city’s total cost for all of its 19 full-time employees is $350,000 of which $150,000 is for the police department.
The City of Saugatuck, which contracts its police services from Douglas, pays for half - or $75,000 - of the cost, say Douglas officials.
Woronko said HSA insurance is designed to pay for the deductible should police officers need it: $2,000 for singles and $4,000 for those with family, the latter of which applies to all of the local police force.
“Employees are on the hook for $4,000 every year for insurance coverage,” said Woronko. “But most police officers don’t exceed that amount.”
Arbitration between the police union and Douglas officials can still be averted if the two parties come to an agreement before that meeting is scheduled, he said.