Township, non-salary employees reach contract deal

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published November 28, 2012

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The township and its non-salary employees union agreed to a new three-year contract earlier this month. The two sides are expected to sign the contract within the week.

“I think the important point is that both sides sat down and came to an agreement that benefits both sides,” said John Haase, a labor relations specialist from Michigan Association of Public Employees.

Haase was head of negotiations for the employees, who have worked without a contract for nearly five months.

Township Clerk Michael Koehs said the two sides reached a tentative agreement while in executive session following the Nov. 14 Board of Trustees meeting, and they waited only for some fine tuning to the contract before signing.

The contract will close the wage gap throughout the next three years between the township’s two tiers of employees and creates a merit-based system of promotions and pay increases.

Koehs said by reaching an agreement before the end of the year, Macomb’s 49 non-salary employees avoid increased out-of-pocket expenses that would come with going into 2013 without a contract. Koehs said because of a change in state law, the employees would have covered the increase in health insurance from their paychecks without chance of receiving back pay.

“By getting everything approved, we avoid all of that,” Koehs said. “It shows you can get to the middle anytime you want. You just have to move from where you are at. We didn’t want to drag the process out on things we knew we were going to come to an agreement on anyways.”

Koehs and Haase would not go into much detail about the contract because, at the time of the interviews, there were some additional items that needed to be completed. Koehs did say that the lower-paid, second-tier wage earners would be brought up to par with first tier. “That only affects 20 (percent) to 25 percent of all the employees,” he said.

The new contract also creates new classifications among employees, Koehs said. For example, if a utility worker were certified to work underground, he would be a different classification than a worker just certified to work above ground. The more specialized workers will be eligible for board-approved wage increases, Koehs said.

“We recognize there’s a difference in their abilities,” he said. “It’s not a seniority thing. It’s like a merit thing.”

The classification system, Koehs said, creates a career path for the township’s employees, enticing them to become certified in advanced aspects of their field. Seniority plays no role in raises, Koehs said.

“Those are just pay raises,” Koehs said of seniority-based wage increases. “You can be just as skilled at the end of five years as you were when you walked in the door and yet get the raises. If you get hired there and you decide you want to stay at that entry level and that’s where you want to be, you can do that.”