Mar. 7, 2016 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Plymouth Township police officers continue to work without a union agreement, a situation that has continued since their contract expired in December 2014.
During the 14 months since that time, the township and the Police Officers of Michigan (POAM) have been unable to reach an agreement through negotiations or mediation. Contract negotiations began in August of 2014 but those talks failed and the police union filed for state mediation, which began in September of 2015. State Mediator Robert Strassberg agreed that negotiations were hopelessly deadlocked after three sessions, with no agreement on health care and retirement benefits. Strassberg agreed that the inability of the township and the union to reach any consensus left binding arbitration as the only option for the 38 member department.
The case has been assigned to state arbitrator Stanley Dobry.
Union representatives and township negotiators have made no comment about the ongoing stalemate due to the pending legal arbitration proceedings although sources close to the situation claim that the township has delayed the contract for an unprecedented amount of time and that the officers are being treated unfairly.
“They wanted to get arbitration…we’re in the middle of arbitration,” said Township Supervisor Shannon Price.
Price was hesitant to answer questions about the long expired contract and the related union talks but defended the township’s tactics, emphasizing, “We’re, not stalling.”
“We’re trying to move it forward, and we’re not that far apart.”
The township officials who make up the negotiation team include Price, Township Treasurer Ron Edwards,
Clerk Nancy Conzelman and Troy attorney Gregory Schultz of Schultz & Young. Schultz represents Plymouth Township in collective bargaining for the police and fire departments.
In addition to the 21 rank and file officers POAM also represents 10 township dispatchers. The four department sergeants are considered command officers and part of the bargaining unit. They are represented by the Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM). Contract negotiations for the command officers and dispatchers have been previously settled. The police chief and two lieutenants are not union employees.
Township Ofc. Steve Coffel is the department POAM union representative.
Price said he was new to union negotiations.
“I got sworn in on a Monday and Tuesday we had a meeting with POAM.”
The basic issues in most public safety negotiations are wages, health care and retirement benefits. Plymouth Township issues are no different.
“We’re trying to negotiate with the police union to address long-term cost, like pension and retiree health care and we’re not that far apart…we’ll be done by May.” Price said.
The proposed 2016 budget for the police department is $3,900,000.
Photo Art: © Don Howard/Associated Newspapers of Michigan