FLINT TWP. —With two trustees firmly opposed, the Flint Township Board approved revised labor union contracts that include 2 1/2-percent pay raises for police, fire and clerical workers.
The raises and a change in health care insurance provision were key items in collective bargaining agreements approved for the Command Officer Association, the Patrol Officer Association, AFSCME Local 1918- Clerical Union, Professional Firefighters Local 1425 and the Michigan Association of Firefighters Paid On-Call Firefighters.
All contracts are effective from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015 but were reopened under a provision regarding terms and conditions of employment.
Wage and fringe benefits were the only items changed in the renegotiation talks, said Supervisor Karyn Miller, who serves on the contract Negotiation Committee. The raises are effective January 1, 2015.
Trustee Belenda Parker and Barb Vert cast the opposing votes in the 5-2 board decision to approve the contracts. Parker said she did not have a problem with giving employees a raise but does not feel this is the right time.
“Just becaue we have this (voter approved public safety) millage we still to watch and curb our spending,” Parker said. “It is just not the right time to give out wage increases so I will be voting no on all contracts for that reason.”
Vert agreed and said it made her angry when she first read the documents.
“We don’t go to the public and ask for this kind of (public safety) millage then turn around and say, ‘Well everybody’s worked hard (as a reason for wage increase),” Vert said. “Everybody works hard, not just here but at a lot of places. To even bring this up, I think, is an insult to the taxpayers in my opinion, so I also will be voting no on all these contracts.”
Township officials had said that staff cuts would be made if the Public Safety millage did not pass. Voters also were told that the millage funds would be spent to support existing police and fire employees and to hire more. Trustee Frank Kasle said he approved the pay raise because employees have not had one in five years. He said it did not make “sense” to him to deny them a pay raise just because voters recently approved the Public Safety Millage.
“The reason for not giving them a a raise (until now) was because the budget did not allow it,”he said. This year, after negotiating in good faith with unions the Negotiating Committee saw fit to approve “a modest raise,’’he said, indicating his intent to vote in favor of the contracts.
He also noted that the raise applies only to the next year and does not mean a 21/2 percent wage increase will be on the table when union contracts expire. He noted his concern about provisions in the firefighters contract which are not open to renegotiation at this time.
He suggested that the Negotiating Committee heed “issues that need to be addressed” when they began contract negotiations for 2016.
Miller said the cost of the employees health care contribution, if they use the maximum, will be three times the amount paid last year. The township had to change healthcare providers this year because the old plan was too costly, she said.
Approval of other union labor contracts still is pending. The township has 69 employees.