By Rosemary K. Otzman
A two-year contract with Local 236 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was unanimously ratified by the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees at its regular meeting Feb. 5.
The contract had already been ratified by the AFSCME local, which has 26 members. It runs from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2014.
There was no discussion on the contract, with Clerk Leon Wright noting that it has been in negotiation for the last year and a half.
At the board’s work study session on Jan. 31, attorney Ethan Vinson was invited to give a list of the significant changes in the contract and he reported the following.
• For health care coverage the employee now will pay 10%, which Vinson called one of the most significant changes.
• There are no wage increases, but there is a $750 signing bonus for 2012, a $750 bonus for 2013 and a $500 bonus payable in 2014.
• There is a change to the Timeliness part of the Grievance and Arbitration procedure. Any grievance at the Step Level 2 not answered within a specified time by the township will be deemed granted. This represents a change in the existing contract in that if it wasn’t answered it then would go to the next step. This puts pressure upon the supervisor to respond immediately to the grievance.
• There are changes in bereavement leave, expanding the definition of immediate family to include stepchildren and grandchildren. The new contract also allows one day bereavement leave to attend the funeral of a niece, nephew, and the non-custodial mother or father of a child.
• There is a change in the overtime call-in time for Water and Sewer Department standby employees. The new contract increases the standby holiday rate for the standby employees to be paid at the Sunday rate. The new contract also creates a new Section 6 which creates an 8-hour break between the time an employee leaves after working a minimum of 4 hours overtime within a 24-hour period before returning to work.
• The new contract allows employees to cash out 3 days of their leave days which would be payable the first pay period in November for Christmas shopping. Also all bonuses are payable the first pay in November.
When Treasurer Sharry Budd noted at the work/study session that there was another change that was significant, Vinson was led to explain the changes to annual vacations and then provided an updated written summary of contract changes to the board the next day.
Vinson wrote: “Under the prior contract, there was a two-tier system for vacations. One applied to employees who were hired prior to Oct. 8, 1986, of which there was one [Kristy Bovitz], and the other applied to employees hired after Oct. 8, 1986, which covered the remainder of the employees.
“Under the old contract, new employees with 6 months to 1 year of seniority would receive a half a day per month.
“Now employees with 6 months to 5 years will receive 1 day per month. Employees with 5 to 10 years seniority would get a day and a half. Previously the day and a half would not kick in until after 7 years.
“Under the new contract, employees with 10-15 years would get 2 days per month, whereas previously employees with 10-15 years would get one and a half days per month and after 15 years two and a half days per month and under the old proposal it was 2 days per month.
“This represents an increase of 6 days per year with employees of 10 years or more.”
After the contract was ratified by the board, AFSCME Local 236 president Brenda Kurtz thanked the board for approving their contract.
In other business at the 26-minute meeting on Feb. 5, the board:
• Agreed to update the 2013 Planning Fee Schedule to include a township fee of $400 and a consultant fee of $450 for Wireless Equipment Administrative Review to comply with new state law on wireless applications;
• Approved Supervisor Linda Combs’ appointment of Connie Etter to the Cemetery Advisory Committee with a term to expire Dec. 12, 2013. Etter fills the vacancy created by the death of Cathy Horste on May 21;
• Was introduced to James Kosiba of Van Buren Township, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Dearborn Heights Montessori Middle School Center, who is fulfilling a weeklong internship at the township in order to graduate from middle school; and
• Witnessed a series of presentations honoring VBT Fire Department personnel, including introduction of four new hires, the four top responders in the last year, five new lieutenants (with one absent), and awarding of the first William C. Gage Service Award for Community Service to Lt. Bruce VanGemert.
After discussion at the Jan. 31 work/study session two additional items were removed from the tentative agenda for the Feb. 5 regular meeting agenda.
Director of Planning and Economic Development Terry Carroll was unable to make the Jan. 31 work/study meeting because of a doctor’s appointment and the board wanted input from him on the items before putting them on the agenda for a vote.
Removed were Consideration of an amendment to the Alliance of Rouge Communities Bylaws and to consider the first reading of a storm water basin amendment to the Township Zoning Ordinance.
By Rosemary K. Otzman