Jailers, dispatchers get new contract one year later

January 20, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

After a 20-minute executive session, the Issaquah City Council unanimously voted Jan. 5 to approve the Issaquah Police Support Association contracts.

The contracts for the city’s 23 jailers, and records and communications specialists, or dispatch officers, resolve more than a year and a half of negotiations between the city and the union.

“The work and sacrifice that the negotiation team made was very much worth the wait,” Michael Zuppe, president of the association, wrote in an e-mail. “The contract itself that expired was already a good foundation, but due to unforeseen consequences from the previous contract, we needed to resolve some issues related to the schedule and how you offset hours when working a rotating shift.”

Contracts for the police support services union expired in December 2007 and employees worked through 2008 without a contract, according to Ruben Nieto, the city’s human resources director.

Because an agreement couldn’t be reached in 2008, state law automatically reinstated the terms of the previous contract until a new one was reached, he added. 

During that time, however, the union’s employees did not receive their 3.5 percent cost of living adjustment because a new contract hadn’t been negotiated. Employees will receive a lump sum payment from the city for their 2008 cost of living adjustments that were awarded in last year’s city budget, Nieto said.

Since those funds were remaining in the city’s 2008 budget, it has no effect on the 2009 budget, he said.

The sticking points between the two groups involved negotiating hours for a new work schedule, including a paid lunch, and the amount of paid holiday time versus scheduled holiday time off by the employees, Nieto said.

Employees were working about 2,002 hours a year, but wanted to increase those hours to about 2,184 hours as part of a new 12-hour schedule shift that included a half-hour paid lunch.

“In some rare cases, some employees actually had to pay the city back at the end of the year if their schedule shorted them hours — a very complex problem that is related to Federal Fair Labor Standard Act compliance,” Zuppe wrote. “In addition, the association members had their holiday bank reconstituted — these hours were used to offset the hours employees working a rotating shift are short at the end of the year. This issue was resolved by management working collaboratively to find a viable solution that meets” fair labor practices standards. 

“The issue was how to move there and how to cover those costs and how to incorporate the paid lunch,” Nieto said. “We have a 24-7 operation. It is not as simple as an eight-hour day for our other employees. 

“It’s moving to 2,184 hours and still treating them the same as our other employees,” he said. “That means accommodating for holidays, how to give them holidays or how to keep them in lieu of having them off.”

To resolve those issues while maintaining the city’s budget, both sides agreed to negotiate with the help of a state mediator in November.

Eventually, both sides agreed to 40 hours of paid holiday time from the city with the remaining 48 hours of holiday time scheduled off by employees.

In addition, the contract also negotiated a new, more standardized discipline procedure and determined how employee retention is determined in the face of layoffs, if necessary, two items that were not well laid out in the contract before, Nieto said.

The contract also includes a 5 percent cost of living adjustment for 2009, the same as other city employees this year. 

The new contracts expire in December 2010.

“I am satisfied with the final agreement,” Police Chief Paul Ayers wrote in an e-mail. “The agreement contained items that were beneficial to the association members and items that were beneficial to the city.”

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or

clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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