Cass County Sergeants, Dispatch Supervisors seek POLC’s help to navigate pension talks
Posted by: jgomori Posted date: September 8, 2022
By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Cass County Road Patrol Sergeants and Dispatch Supervisors joined the POLC in December 2021 after negotiations over proposed pension reductions hit a wall.
Their former Union, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), represented them during their past three bargaining agreements, but when their current agreement expired Dec. 31, 2020, their Employer began pushing hard for major pension reductions.
“The final straw was actually during contract negotiations when we were able to get FOP to admit that they had been meeting with the County administration without our knowledge,” said Jason Pompey, Local Union Steward.
The eight-member group rejected the County’s proposal.
“I cannot fight the County and fight on every front by myself,” Pompey said. “We need people in our corner trying to do what’s best for us when we go to the County on this.”
Pompey reached out to the POLC after previously talking with a POLC Union Rep. and hearing positive things from a neighboring department.
“One of the local agencies has POLC and they are doing great with their contracts. They even have a COLA in their contract,” Pompey said of Dowagiac Police. “I talked to some of their guys and they speak very highly of POLC. I said, ‘We need to get on board with POLC and their representation. They’re doing something right.’”
“We are a year out of contract right now,” Pompey said in December 2021. “I started working with my unit on changing unions. Before (the Employer) could file for arbitration, we got the paperwork to change Union leadership. After we turned in the cards, the County said, ‘We’re at an impasse and you can take up all labor issues with the County attorney at this point.’”
With the help of POLC Labor Rep. Dave Thomas, the group negotiated a 5-year agreement with a total of 20 percent in raises and significant pension enhancements for switching from a Defined Benefit (DB) to a Defined Contribution (DC) plan. Employees are immediately vested in the DC plan, while their DB plans are frozen. Employees who opt to convert their DB to a DC, are given Transition Bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 per Employee, based on years of service. The Employer’s pension contributions to the MERS DC plan climb from 13 percent to 15 percent during the contract and the Employer will make any required additional contributions to the DC plan to make up the difference.
“Through negotiations with the Employer, Employees were able to receive a huge signing bonus, which they could put into their DC plan if they choose to,” Thomas said. “They’re letting you choose between putting it in your DC, 457, or a check. The Employer was only going to do it one way. So we had to hammer on them and negotiate the options. The thought was everybody is in a little different place in life. I have two people that are able to retire soon. Some might be able to put money away and avoid taxes and others would pay the taxes and get the money in a check.”
For Employees close to retirement, full disclosure and transparency during negotiations was extremely important to their future. “Now, they don’t have concern with their Labor Rep. meeting behind closed doors with management, without the Stewards involved,” Thomas said. “They wanted transparency and wanted to be a part of deciding their future. When the POLC gathered their proposals, we began negotiating as a team with management and the Unit was satisfied they had seen all the research, the data, where the county’s position was. The Unit made an informed decision about what they wanted in the contract and ultimately were successful negotiating an agreement.”
“When the Unit came to us, we researched and learned several things. They wanted to know if they were being told the truth and they wanted a say in what happens,” Thomas said. “We worked as a team and got the best deal we could. All their options were laid out in front of them, including mediation and arbitration. They felt what we came up with, as a team, was the best deal for them.”
Health Care Opt-Out payments jumped from $225 to $400 per month. Life insurance tripled from $25,000 to $75,000 and a MERS Health Care Savings Plan was created with a 4 percent Employer contribution. Shift premiums increased from $.20 to $.30 per hour for those working after 5 p.m. and swing shifts. Lateral transfers start higher on the pay scale. Extreme Emergency Closing language was added for 1-1/2 times their pay rate under certain circumstances.
Funeral leave increased four days with an additional day for travel over 175 miles from Cass County and the ability to hold a portion of their leave in abeyance for use at a later time to attend funerals or memorial services. Vacation Time requirements were relaxed for more flexibility and layoff language allows Command Officers to bump into Deputy, Detective and Dispatcher positions.