2013-01-10 / Front Page

County ratifies contract with deputy’s union

Possible POAM grievance remains on table

MANISTIQUE – Employees represented by the Police Officer’s Association of Michigan and the Schoolcraft County Deputy’s Association have signed a contract with Schoolcraft County. The union contract was ratified during a Jan. 2 meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.

The county and POAM employees had been working on contract negotiations since October of 2012, with little progress made until recently. According to SCDA representative Angie Pierce, the contract means union employees will avoid having to pay a nearly 14 percent increase for their medical insurance. The extra amount would have been the difference between what the union had been paying in 2012 and the rate increase which took effect for all county insurance in 2013.

After a contract expires, union employees, under Public Act 54 of 2011, are responsible for any medical insurance increases incurred by the county until new contract terms are set.

Despite the clear-cut wording regarding medical insurance, the Act is a point of contention between POAM members and the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners. Currently, a potential grievance filed by POAM on behalf of the SCDA remains on the table. The POAM alleges the county was responsible for paying increases in the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System while no contract existed between the SCDA and county.

The county, on the other hand, insists the act states they were not responsible for covering the difference in MERS rates from 2012 to 2013.

The Act states: “After the expiration date of a collective bargaining agreement and until a successor collective bargaining agreement is in place, a public employer shall pay and provide wages and benefits at levels and amounts that are no greater than those in effect on the expiration date of the collective bargaining agreement.”

It goes on to say, “Employees who receive health, dental, vision, prescription, or other insurance benefits under a collective bargaining agreement shall bear any increased cost of maintaining those benefits that occurs after the expiration date.”

In Schoolcraft County, the debate centers on whether “other insurance benefits” includes the MERS payments. The SCDA contract with the county expired on

Sept. 30. The difference from the last contract and the new MERS rate – approximately 2 percent – was expected to be deducted from SCDA union paychecks beginning Dec. 7.

While SCDA is not completely satisfied with the contract ratified last week, Pierce noted that there was “Not much we could do,” and that the decision was made to avoid more out-of-pocket expenses for employees.

The county board is expected to address the POAM potential grievance during tonight’s meeting.

In other business, the board also elected officers for 2013 during the Jan. 2 meeting. Al Grimm will continue in his position as chairperson, while Dan LaFoille will take the reins as vice chairperson. County board meetings will remain on the current schedule: the third and last Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The audit-finance committee for the county will continue to meet on the second and last Thursday of each month at 7 p.m.

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