Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies agree to concessions in new four-year contract
Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies have agreed to a freeze in pay for the next two years and other concessions expected to save the county nearly $4.43 million over the next four years, county officials said today.
The county's Police Officers Association of Michigan bargaining unit voted Wednesday night to ratify a new four-year labor contract that starts Jan. 1.
Of the 244 members in the union, 201 ballots were cast. About 92 percent voted in favor of the agreement, said union President Harry Valentine.
"I'm glad that it passed because I think it's going to help save jobs," Valentine said. "I think it's going to preserve our quality of life for our employees, yet it's going to help the county with their deficit. When you look around and see all these people laid off, and people facing financial troubles, you have to be thankful and you have to do your part."
With the county facing a structural deficit estimated at $20 million for the two-year budget cycle for 2012 and 2013, POAM members agreed to forgo a planned 2 percent pay increase for 2011, which is estimated to save $376,606. They also agreed to a pay freeze for 2012 and 1 percent pay increases in each of the last two years of the contract.
County officials said the most significant part of the agreement is the structural impact for all four years. By forgoing wage increases for 2011 and 2012, the savings will compound on an annual basis, resulting in millions of dollars in the long run.
The average deputy’s salary and benefits are $58,381 and $33,774, respectively, according to the county.
Sheriff Jerry Clayton said he's proud his deputies took a leadership role in helping the county address its budget challenges, despite the fact that the county board didn't agree to cut its pay.
"Regardless of that, they still stepped up and made what I think is the appropriate decision," he said. "There's significant leadership there."
County officials said the $375,000 in wages that the contract will save next year alone will go a long way toward closing a projected $1 million county budget deficit for 2011. The impact on the two-year budget for 2012-13 is expected to be about $2.38 million.
POAM members also have agreed to start sharing the cost of their health care premiums starting in 2013, with each employee paying $50 a month — that's expected to save $168,000 a year in both 2013 and 2014. Valentine said it marks the first time the POAM bargaining unit has done premium sharing on its health care package.
"It's a change from how things have been done in the past, but the economy's been changing big time, too," he said. "You have to be happy with what you can preserve."
Last year, much of the county's labor force — including AFSCME Local 2733, AFSCME Local 3052, Michigan Nurses Association, Assistant Prosecutors Association, Public Defenders Association and nonunion groups — agreed to concessions in both pay and benefits, resulting in a $4.1 million reduction to the general fund for 2010 and 2011.
County officials said the latest union concessions are significant as the POAM makes up about 16 percent of the county’s workforce.
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a resolution approving the contract at its meeting on Jan. 19.
"The county is extremely pleased about it," said Diane Heidt, the county's human resources and labor relations director. "It is a big dent — the majority of the POAM membership is in the general fund, so the savings we will achieve will go into reducing the general fund deficit."
Heidt said the Command Officers Association of Michigan bargaining unit — which represents lieutenants and sergeants in the sheriff's department — will be asked to vote on similar concessions in January. As for the remainder of the county's 17 total bargaining units, contract negotiations will be ongoing throughout the next calendar year, she said.
The 244 members of the POAM bargaining unit include sheriff's deputies, corrections officers, clerical staff and animal control officers.
Before the vote on the contract, Valentine sent an e-mail to county officials saying the concessions might have been easier to swallow had the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners agreed to also take concessions, but they didn't.
Valentine said it helped that Clayton came to speak to the union members before they voted on the contract, informing them of the economic situation facing the county. Judging by the response from that talk, Valentine said, "I figured it was going to be a large yes."
"It works out good for all of us," he added of the new four-year agreement. "It's what (county administration) wanted. And they gave us a little, and we gave them a little. They gave us the stability of our health care and they gave us the stability of our retirement."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.