Havre Daily News
City negotiators and police union representatives are planning to start contract negotiations from scratch after the union's membership rejected a tentative agreement.
Havre City Council member Terry Schend said Monday he had hoped to finish negotiations by the beginning of this month.
”We've got to go back to square one,“ said Schend, who chairs the city Labor Relations Committee.
He said no date has been set for the next meeting between the committee and union representatives.
Montana Public Employees Association representative Tom Bivins said Monday the union had several problems with the package:
The proposed two-year contract would have been reopened after a year to deal with insurance.
It offered a 3 percent raise for each of the next two years, while the Havre Fire Department received an extra half percent the second year.
The changes to the Police Department's holiday pay package were unsatisfactory to the union.
Bivins said he and union members didn't like the idea of opening the contract in 2006.
”Opening contracts is not a good idea,“ Bivins said. ”If they can offer a wage package for two years, they can take care of the insurance.“
Bivins said the union was told up front that all city employees receive the same pay increase.
”We found out that wasn't true,“ he said, referring to the 3 percent raise in the second year of the firefighters' contract. ”In fact, everybody wasn't getting the same thing.
He noted that police officers didn't get a pay increase last fiscal year. Last year's city budget contained no money for pay increases for any city employee.
”I think there's still some heartburn that (the police) didn't get the raise this year, and I think there was the expectation that they would get more than 3 percent,“ Bivins added. He said the raise ”barely“ keeps up with inflation.
Schend said the Fire Department received the extra raise because firefighters do not receive some of the supplemental income - such as clothing allowances - that police officers and public works employees get under their contracts.
”That was the only monetary increase they got over anybody else,“ Schend said.
In its contract, the Police Department received many opportunities to increase workers' base pay, he said.
”They were going to get some additional cash incentives,“ Schend said.
The proposed contract included a $25 clothing allowance increase for new officers. Officers receive $875 for clothing each year, while new officers receive $850. Bivins said he believes the change for new officers fixed a typo in the contract.
The city also was going to purchase some of the items needed by police officers to begin work, Schend said. If the officers left Havre, those items would stay with the city, he added. Officers would have received an additional day of comp time for firearms training, he said.
A change that would have allowed officers to cash in the compensatory time they receive for working holidays would also have increased their take-home pay, Schend said.
Police officers are given 100 hours of comp time at the beginning of each year as compensation for working on holidays. The new contract would have allowed them to cash out their comp time and receive pay instead of the days off, while the old contract set a deadline date each year. If the officers hadn't used up the time, they lost it, Bivins said.
The new contract would have also given officers an additional half day's pay for the holidays they actually worked.
Bivins said the changes to the holiday pay package were not enough to bring the department in line with other city departments' holiday compensation.
Bivins said other city employees receive double time and a half when they work holidays. He said the additional half day's pay wasn't enough of an increase.
”Now that we're back at the table, we're going to bring it back again,“ Bivins said. ”It needs to be recognized by the city.“
Schend said the additional half day of pay for holiday work brings the department in line with how other city workers are compensated for holidays. Police officers are salaried employees, he said, and when they do not work a holiday, they still receive the same amount of pay as they normally would. Schend said the officers, with the extra half-day pay, would be making double time and a half for holidays they worked.
Bivins said the police officers are hourly employees.
”They are not salaried employees,“ he said. ”Any employees who are not supervisors and are nonexempt employees are hourly employees“ regardless of when they are paid, he said.
”If they were salaried employees, how would they be getting overtime pay?“ Bivins added.