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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2008

Sylvania Township police talks stalled as unions reject fact-finder report

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Contract negotiations with Sylvania Township police employees have stalled after three unions representing 56 workers rejected the report of an independent fact-finder.

The report recommended changing contract language regarding health care, minimum staffing requirements, compensation, and other issues.

Union members have agreed to the health care concessions, which would make employees responsible for 10 percent of their health care premiums up to $1,484 monthly, the report noted. Premiums exceeding $1,484 would be split with the employer 50-50.

In return for the concession, the union has asked for raises between 5 and 6 percent annually, although the fact-finder's report noted that 3 percent was the statewide average for wage increases.

Union representatives said that larger-than-normal increases are warranted because health care concessions will result in essentially a pay decrease for employees.

"Some of our lower-paid [employees], 70 percent of their raises are going to be eaten up by the increase in health care," Kevin Pelwecki, president of the road unit, said.

Township Administrator Hugh Thomas said the health care proposal is identical to the agreement used by the fire department and all other township employees.

Most township employees pay $186 per month for a family plan, Mr. Thomas said.

Union members' main concern with the changes, however, is a proposal to eliminate contract language that requires a minimum of four patrol officers and one sergeant on duty each shift, Sgt. Bob Cowell, director of the command officers' union, said.

Union members are concerned, that under the proposal, as few as two officers could be employed on slow shifts, he said.

"These are sweeping changes," Sergeant Cowell said. "We're worried about the safety of the citizens and the officers."

Administration reports the minimum staffing provision cost the township about $100,000 in overtime payments for sergeants between January and April, 2008.

The fact-finder's report pointed out that no other area departments have a stipulation requiring a sergeant to be on staff at all times.

The police employees' bargaining unit represents three unions, comprised of police dispatchers, patrol officers, sergeants and lieutenants, a property manager, and three administrative employees. The group's contract expired in October.

The township's 34 patrol officers are paid a base salary of $54,255 annually. Sergeants and lieutenants are paid a base salary between $57,985 and $68,667. Police dispatchers are paid a $44,824 base salary. Union police department administrative staff and the property manager make between $32,594 and $38,834 without overtime, vacation pay, or other benefits, Mr. Thomas said.

Salaries, vacation time, and overtime for employees represented by the three unions cost the township about $3.88 million last year, Mr. Thomas said. Township officials estimate that 3 percent raises would cost the township about an additional $500,000 over three years.

The fact-finder's report will be turned over to conciliation. A date for that meeting has not yet been set, Mr. Thomas said.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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