Government and Human Resources

Kent County moves toward unusual labor balance

March 11, 2013
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While it certainly wouldn’t be a first, it wouldn’t be a common occurrence, either.

If Kent County commissioners approve a four-year labor agreement on Thursday with the Kent County Deputy Sheriffs Association, all 13 of the county’s labor unions will be under contract. So negotiations would not take place for at least the remainder of this year.

“It’s not unprecedented that we have all contracts settled, it’s just been a while,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller.

Members of the Finance Committee ratified the KCDSA contract last week that gives the deputies a 1 percent wage increase this year and next, and a 2 percent hike in 2015. The employees will raise their pension contribution by a point to 7.5 percent in April and by another point to 8.5 percent Jan. 1. Changes also will be made to the deputies’ health insurance.

The new agreement will cost the county $586,241 in base salary costs and $4,854 for health coverage, but will reduce the county’s pension contribution by $293,482 over the contract’s life. So the four-year impact on salary and benefits has been estimated at costing the county $400,176 for the unit’s 231 members. That cost comes to $1,732 per employee for the contract’s duration, or $433 per deputy per year.

“This is certainly not what I’ve been used to over the years. I was somewhat stunned when I read this,” said Commissioner Roger Morgan.

“This is a really good agreement,” added Commissioner Carol Hennessy.

KCDSA represents corrections officers, sergeants, scientific support unit specialists and the unit’s team leader. The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, and runs through Dec. 31, 2015. The membership ratified the agreement earlier.

Delabbio explained to the Business Journal that a handful of contracts were due to expire at the end of 2012, but most of those bargaining units approached then-County Human Resources Director Don Clack and asked for negotiations to begin earlier than usual.

“Part of that was a concern about what the state would be doing in terms of collective bargaining matters, and part of it was a preference to deal with Don, who was known as being fair and reasonable while also being a tough negotiator,” he said.

“All the contracts except the Police Officers Association of Michigan and KCDSA were negotiated before Don left the county in late June,” he added. Clack retired from the county then.

POAM and the county went to arbitration and the award was made in July. Once that issue was settled, KCSDA entered into negotiations with the county.

“Heading into 2013, the only contract that was not settled was the one with KCSDA,” said Delabbio.

If commissioners approve the KCDSA pact, the county will have nine bargaining units and 1,162 employees under contract through Dec. 31, 2015. Another four units and 224 employees are under contract through Dec. 31, 2014.

The Right to Work legislation state lawmakers passed last December won’t affect the county’s bargaining units because all will be under contract before March 28, the day the statute goes into effect.

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