Board approves township police contract

FLINT TWP. — A new option for retiree health coverage is one significant change to a tentative agreement with the Police Officers Association of Michigan labor union, approved last week by the township board.

Negotiators agreed to most terms from a previous collective bargaining agreement that expired December 31, 2015. The new three-year agreement dates from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2018.

Municipal attorney Helen Mills was on hand to explain changes in the contract including a new retiree medical savings account that would include an employee contribution, a 3 percent contribution from the township and cliff vesting. Cliff vesting means that after 10 years on the job, a departing employee would be able to take the saving account with them, severing all future obligations, Mills said. They also would have the option to use the money for something other than heath care.

Trustee Frank Kasle asked why an employee would choose that over a regular retirement health plan. Mills said that for one it offers greater security. The Courts have been clear about giving municipalities the option to stop offering retiree health care altogether, she said. By having a saving account, it is a long-term guarantee that there will be funds available to workers at the end of employment.

Mills called it a “new and exciting” option that she hopes other bargaining units will also consider.

The contract offers other traditional health care options including one that continues coverage for employees already retired.

The contract also provides for wage increases of two percent each year, effective January 1, 2016. There is a health insurance opt-out payment who elect to be covered by a spouse’s insurance provided that spouse does not also work for the township. The opt-out payment is $4,150 for two-person coverage and $5000 for a family.

The agreement also includes new terms for overtime pay and shift premiums.

Trustee Belenda Parker said she would be voting against the contract for the same reason given for other recently approved contracts that included pay raises. Parker and Trustee Barb Vert have stood firm on their belief that it is bad timing to hand out raises so soon after voters approved a Public Safety Millage that bailed the township out of it cashstrapped status.

Parker said that other than the raises, she had no problems with the new contract.

Supervisor Karyn Miller asked Mills if contract negotiations probably would have gone to binding arbitration if employees had not been offered raises after going five years without one. Mills confirmed that an arbitrator would first establish whether the township had money to give raises.

Miller also said that a review of the township’s history of raises before 1990 would show that a two and a half percent raise is one of the smallest increases given.

“I understand the timing, it did not look good, but the logical reason for giving them (raises) is to avoid ending up in arbitration,’’ she said.

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