VAN BUREN COUNTY DEPUTIES CONTRACT ‘BEST THEY’VE SEEN’
By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Van Buren County Deputies joined their comrades in Van Buren County Command and Corrections seeking representation with the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC) and members were wowed by their first POLC-negotiated contract.
“Command was already on board with POLC as were our Corrections unit. It just seemed to make more sense,” said Derek Weldon, President of Van Buren County Deputies Local Union. “Everybody seems to get along better. Deputies feel they weren’t represented very well. Everybody now gets along pretty well.”
The nearly 40-member group voted to join the POLC and part ways with the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) in August 2022.
“Between people leaving, retirements and new hires, our group is in the high 30’s maybe 40 members,” Weldon said. “We had a couple major incidents. I didn’t feel they represented us very well. It could’ve been done better. With Command and Corrections, they’re really happy.”
Weldon was put in touch with POLC Labor Representative Dave Thomas who settled the group’s first POLC-represented bargaining agreement effective Jan. 1, 2023. He complimented Thomas on his stellar communication skills. “I’m very impressed. Dave has been very receptive, getting back to me, checking in,” Weldon said.
Members were more than impressed with their new POLC-negotiated bargaining agreement. They received an adjustment/increase of $2 per hour for their pay scale steps upon ratification, followed by a 6 percent wage increase effective Jan. 1, 2023. The three-year agreement includes two additional 3 percent wage increases on Jan. 1, 2024 and Jan. 1, 2025.
“The response I’m getting so far everybody saying this contract is the best they’ve seen,” Weldon said. “Definitely the wage compensation was major. They’re used to 2 percent, 2 percent, 2 percent across the board. Everybody was very happy with the wage increase.”
The increases Thomas negotiated make their department an attractive place for new hires. “The increases are getting us up where we needed to be,” Weldon said. “Other departments are offering pretty significant compensation. So, just having a competitive wage scale for retention and recruitment, as are all the other departments nationwide who are trying to get people and retain them.”
An added attraction is their more flexible PTO usage and greater PTO payouts. Previously, Deputies had to use or lose 65 percent of the PTO they accrued in any given year and were limited to cashing out 375 hours out of a maximum of 1,000 hours they could accrue. Under their new agreement, they no longer have required PTO usage in the same year. Instead, they can roll it over to the next year and now, they can cash out up to 500 hours.
“It was hanging a lot of newer folks up so it was not worth it,” Weldon said. “My reason during negotiations was if you have a new hire and they plan to start a family or get married, they need to bank that time. Our Sheriff is awesome. He totally supports his guys and gals and that’s been helpful during the entire process.”
Employees also received a $50 monthly boost in health care opt out pay. If they choose not to take the Employer-provided health care, they now receive $200 per month. They received Juneteenth as an additional paid Holiday and newly added minimum call-in pay for Special Assignment Team activation. Previously, Special Assignment Team members were paid nothing if they were called to a scene, but no longer needed once they arrived. Now, Employees called in for Special Team assignments must be paid a minimum of two hours of straight time followed by OT for any additional hours.
“One big thing I fought for is call-in pay for Deputies for special assignments,” Weldon said. “A lot of times, being close to the lakeshore, we activate our Dive Team to the location and in 30 minutes the missing person is found. We wanted a minimum amount of pay.”