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Feb 05, 2024

By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

When Van Buren County Dispatchers became the fourth County unit to join the POLC after hearing Van Buren County Road Patrol Deputies were joining the Union.

Van Buren County Dispatchers made the switch from Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) to the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC) in August 2022, along with the County Deputies. The POLC has been representing Van Buren County Command for decades and County Corrections Officers since 2013.

“I was hearing rumors that Road Patrol Deputies were switching to POLC, so I asked their Representative what was going on,” said Christine Mortimer, Van Buren County Dispatchers Local Union President. “Our Representative that we had from POAM wasn’t being helpful. Given all the positive comments being made about POLC being more helpful, I presented it to the members.” 

Initially, the 13-member unit was interested in merging into one bargaining unit with the Deputies. Their opinion changed after POLC Labor Representative Dave Thomas explained the importance of autonomy. “I was thinking strength in numbers. I talked with Dave and he said, ‘In this case, you really want to keep your own unit,’” Mortimer said. “I think one of the biggest reasons why is because we have issues unique to Dispatch that the Road Patrol doesn’t have. I think he was concerned, if we merge with Road Patrol, none of our needs would be met.”

Thomas helped the group obtain vast improvements in their wages. In their first POLC-negotiated bargaining agreement, effective Jan. 1, 2023, Van Buren County Dispatchers received an immediate 6 percent boost in pay, followed by 3 percent increases in the second and third years of the contract.

“A 12 percent pay increase is better than the 6 percent we normally get,” Mortimer said. “Traditionally, we only get 2 (percent), 2, and 2 (over three years), and if you only allow 2 (percent), 2, and 2, you’re going to see a mass exodus of Employees. The cost of living went up 7 percent.”

Paid Time Off (PTO) was altered to provide more flexibility when the time can be taken, and an increase in PTO payout hours. Previously, Employees were required to use 65 percent of the PTO they earned in a given year or lose it. The contract now allows PTO to rollover to the next year, with a maximum PTO bank of 1,000 hours. PTO payouts increased from a maximum of 375 hours to 500 hours.

“It’s not the end of the year – use it or lose it – PTO anymore,” Mortimer said. “As you earn PTO, you can build your bank up to 1,000 hours. The nice thing about having 1,000 hours for the older ones … is we can build that up and be more confident we’ll have the time we need if a major illness comes along or we need a surgery.”

Juneteenth was added as a paid Holiday. Employees who opt out of healthcare coverage receive a monthly increase in Opt-Out pay from $150 to $200. Employees working as Certified Training Officers (CTOs) receive compensation in the form of extra PTO, after every four weeks of training. Employees who work a four-week, 20-working-day cycle as a CTO, without any time off, receive 8, 10, or 12 hours of PTO, based on the Employee’s assignment.

“Sometimes we’re training one (Dispatcher) after another. We’ve had quite the turnover,” Mortimer said. “We got them to recognize, for us, a (working) day is 12 hours.” 

Mortimer said Thomas takes the time to really listen to concerns and provides thoughtful responses. “Dave’s so easy to work with,” she said. “He answers my questions and he never makes me feel stupid. He’s very ‘down-homish.’”

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