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Cops, village agree to new union contract

August 01, 2012 - A new five-year labor contract was approved last week by both the Oxford Village Council and the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC), the union that represents the municipality's police officers and dispatchers.

"We are satisfied with the contract and I think negotiations with the village were outstanding," said Union Steward Debbie O'Farrell, who works as director of communications and has been with the department for almost 22 years.

"Especially these days, I feel very fortunate that we're able to compromise," said Police Sgt. Mike Solwold, who's served Oxford for 19 years. "I feel very fortunate to work in a community like this and have a good council that's very supportive."

As with any compromise, both sides gained something from this agreement, which is retroactive to July 1 and expires on June 30, 2017.

The village gained a $39,000 annual savings thanks to an agreed-upon switch in the health insurance plan covering the two full-time police officers (excluding the chief) and three full-time dispatchers.

Normally, the village has three full-time officers, but one of the positions is vacant.

Effective Sept. 1, the police will be covered by McLaren Health Plan. The village will go from paying $101,467 annually to cover police employees to $62,462 per year.

On top of that, although current police employees will still pay only $25 per month ($300 annually) toward their health insurance premiums, the contract stipulates that new hires will pay $100 per month ($1,200 annually).

"Anytime we can save the village money, I think that is a wonderful thing," O'Farrell said. "We're all just waiting to see how the new insurance is going to be."

New hires will also pay 5 percent – in the form of a pretax payroll deduction – towards offsetting pension payments. Existing unionized police employees are required to pay a half-percent into the retirement system.

Police employees didn't walk away from the bargaining table empty-handed as they received a one-time "signing bonus" of $1,000 each as an "incentive" to approve the contract, according to a July 27 memo written by village Manager Joe Young. This amounts to a $5,000 cost for the village.

"We're all very happy with that," O'Farrell said. "That was just a bonus. We were content with the contract, (but) we were very happy that they offered us a little incentive anyway seeing as how we (had) given up raises (for two years) and (made) a lot of other concessions (regarding uniform allowance and personal days). It was a very nice thing that they did."

Young noted the use of a signing bonus is something he hopes will convince the five full-time Department of Public Works (DPW) employees to agree to the health care change when their union contract expires on June 30, 2013.

The police union also struck a deal whereby the full-time employees will receive a wage increase if the village's total state equalized value and/or taxable value (SEV/TV) goes up.

For every 1 percent that the village's SEV or TV increases, the officers and dispatchers will receive a half-percent wage increase.

The increase will be based on the lesser of the two amounts.

The pay raise is capped at 4 percent for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014. There's a 3 percent cap for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. The 4 percent cap would stem from an SEV/TV increase of 8 percent and the 3 percent cap from a 6 percent SEV/TV increase.

The SEV or TV must increase by one full percent in order for there to be a wage increase.

For example, if the SEV/TV increases by 0.99 percent, the employee wage increase is zero percent. If the SEV/TV increases by 1.99 percent, the wage increase is 0.5 percent. If the SEV/TV increases by 2.99 percent, the wage increase is 1 percent. And so on.

In his memo, Young explained the concept of having wage increases tied to SEV/TV increases was something that was included in the union contract with DPW employees when it was renegotiated in 2010.

It should be noted the unionized police employees previously agreed to give up a combined 4.04 percent in wage increases, which would have taken effect in 2010 and 2011.

Their last pay raise took effect on July 1, 2009.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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