2013-01-03 / Front Page

Union contract approved

County ratifies one contract, POAM awaits approval

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners recently ratified one union contract, citing the other had yet to reach final approval. The board also approved “performance pay” bonuses for a slew of non-union county employees.

According to Commissioner Craig Reiter, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union contract negotiations recently ended, and the final draft could be approved with the condition that two words were added. He noted the AFSCME union had already ratified the contract pending these changes.

The board voted unanimously to approve the AFSCME contract.

In other business, Commissioner Dan LaFoille noted that an agreement between the county and the POAM (Police Officer’s Association of Michigan) had still not been reached.

“With regard to the POAM contract, there is not an agreement at this point in time,” LaFoille said. “Some issues have cropped up since our last meeting; we thought we had a contract with one change. We did, in fact, make that one change.”

LaFoille noted that there were no special meetings planned between the union and county between then, Dec. 27, and Jan. 1.

“We submitted changes – they accepted them all except for one,” Reiter said. “They said if we made that one change, they would accept the contract, and we did make that change. However, they backed out on their agreement to accept it.”

Commissioner Al Grimm explained that he had grown frustrated with the POAM union negotiations.

“I’m not bitter, but I just have short patience for some of the things that go on. We’re all adults, let’s act like it,” said Grimm. “It takes up a tremendous amount of time; we get paid very little for doing this.”

On Wednesday, Deputy Dianna Herlik explained the POAM had not shunned the union contact for no reason. She noted that along with the one agreed-upon change, the county’s labor relations attorney, Bonnie Toskey, had made other small language changes without formally alerting the POAM.

According to Herlik, union members sent the contact back to the county requesting the language be returned to its orginal state, but Toskey declined. She noted this was the delay with the contract, not the POAM’s refusal to accept a change they had already agreed upon.

“The county is holding a meeting today (Wednesday) at 3 p.m., and we are expecting them to ratify the contract then,” Herlik said.

She added that the POAM is ratifying the contract, even though Toskey had not restored all of the original language, to avoid a spike in insurance rates expected to hit on Friday. If the POAM contract is not approved Wednesday, POAM employees face the possibility of having to pay the difference between their insurance policy from 2012 to 2013 – approximately 13.9 percent.

During their Dec. 27 meeting, the board also addressed a nonunion performance pay agreement.

“Since we have contractual people getting the performance pay, we also address the non-union people,” Reiter said as he made the motion to approve the $500 and $250 bonuses.

LaFoille seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved. The bonuses will be distributed to various county employees, including the clerk and treasurer.

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