Havre Daily News
Havre police officers have approved a labor agreement with the city, clearing the way for the city's second union contract to be signed.
Montana Public Employees Association representative Tom Bivins said today that the officers approved the two-year contract in a vote on Friday. It was the second time the agreement had been up for a vote. The officers rejected the same agreement last month.
Bivins said he thinks the officers misunderstood a proposed scheduling change before the first vote. After Police Chief Mike Barthel provided more detail about the plan, which will eliminate 10-hour shifts in an attempt to add flexibility to the schedule, officers approved the agreement, Bivins said.
The agreement gives officers a 3 percent raise this year, retroactive to July 1, and a 3.5 percent raise for the second year of the contract.
The previous contract, which expired June 30, did not offer any wage increase at all. Bivins said the officers had been hoping for a larger increase in wages.
“This percentage increase probably represents what the city thinks they can afford,” Bivins said. “I think there was a greater expectation of wage increase” on the officers' part, he added.
Bivins said the increase does not make up for a rising cost of living and rising health insurance costs.
Havre City Council member Terry Schend, who chairs the Labor Relations Committee, said today that the city gave what it could.
“We gave exactly what we could afford to give,” Schend said.
He added that the contract, which will likely be up for approval at the next City Council meeting on Monday, is a “win-win” for both officers and the city.
“I think it was a good contract for the city and the police union,” he said. “I think we both did our part in making sure we got a good contract. I have to commend them for being aware of the financial situation.”
Bivins said the Havre department has experienced the turnover that many other small police departments in Montana have seen. He said departments this size tend to see a lot of younger officers come and go, while older officers stay on because they have roots in the community. He said that trend will likely continue.
The proposal also settled the question of holiday compensation.
For years, the city has given officers 96 hours in banked compensatory time at the beginning of each year in lieu of cash payment for holidays. Officers had to take that time off before the year's end or risk losing it.
The city agreed to a proposal from Bivins that eliminated the deadline and awarded officers 100 hours of comp time.
Bivins said today that he thinks the police officers would have gotten a better deal if they had approved a previous agreement that they rejected in October. That agreement would have given officers the chance to cash out their comp time at the end of the year, and would have awarded them additional pay for holidays worked.
“We had a better deal the time before,” Bivins said.