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Interest Arbitration Award

[Last Best Offer]

In re

Town of Union City, Okla.


L-144, I.U.P.A.


117 LA (BNA) 1544

FMCS Case No. 02/12456


October 3, 2002


Board of Arbitration: Anne Holman Woolf, chairperson, selected by parties through procedures of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; Ron Woods, management member; James R. Moore, union member 


Opinion by Anne Holman Woolf, chairperson.


The parties disagreed over five items and negotiated to conclusion on twenty-six items. The disputed items concerned Sick Leave, Funeral Leave, Health and Dental insurance, Field Training Officer and Appendix A, Pay Scale. The parties' presentations and Briefs evidence that they were, in fact, in agreement on Appendix A, Pay Scale. Their final offers on this item were identical and ultimately the Town stipulated to this fact. 


The Town stipulated during the hearing and, again, in its Brief that “it has the revenues to fund either plan,” i.e., the Town's and the Union's final offers. Therefore, the Chairperson finds that the application of that part of Factor 4 involving “revenues available to the municipality” is not controlling in this matter. This finding, that the Town has the necessary ability to pay for either offer, does not ignore the necessity that public monies be spent only for those matters which are legal, prudent, necessary and cost-effective. It is noted that the Town did not contest the Union's statement that the Police Department brought in annual revenues of $175,000, while costing the Town not more than $145,000 in operating costs. Additionally, the Town did not contest the Union's statement that the Town receives up to $24,000 per year for each of three of the four police officers in the bargaining unit. This money is received from a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and must be earmarked to cover salaries and fringe benefits. According to the Union's presentation, this grant covers at least one additional Fiscal Year and may be extended for an additional year or two. At present, the Town does not use the full amount of the grant allotment. 


The Town contends that there is no town of comparable size to it in the State of Oklahoma. It argues that the 65 square miles that the police officers patrol is greater than that of towns which might otherwise be considered to be comparable. This Board of Arbitration operates under the Act which requires the arbitrators to compare “wage rates, insurance, retirement, other fringe benefits or hourly conditions of employment of the ... police department ...with (those same items of) police departments in cities, towns or other political subdivisions of comparable size and economic status both within and without the State of Oklahoma....” (11 O.S. Section 51-109) Historically, Boards of Arbitration have interpreted “comparable size” to mean comparable in population. The Town used the differences in population of the Town with the municipalities with much larger populations, included in Union Exhibit No. 2, in its objection to such comparison based on population size. The Chairperson finds that the Town is selective in its arguments of non-comparability. The Town's position would eliminate the Board's legal responsibility to give weight to this factor, among others, in reaching its decision. The Chairperson is not persuaded that the town's geographical size makes it unique and not comparable to any other town, city or political subdivision. The Town's geographical size of sixty-five square miles is a considerable size. However, this size raises questions about wear-and-tear on equipment, response time and the optimum number of police officers required rather than establishing a condition of non-comparability which is not provided for in the Act. In terms of the mission of the Police Department, it is people and not land mass which commit crimes. 


The Town contends that the election of April 2, 2002, in which the voters chose the Town's last offer over the Union's last offer for Fiscal Year 2001-2002, is all the evidence needed to determine the “interest and welfare of the public,” as contained in Factor Four of the Act. The Proposition in this election contained some nineteen proposals which, necessarily, were at best only briefly summarized. 218 of 812 eligible voters voted; this is a participation rate of 28 per cent. Given the Town's position concerning this election, it follows that the Town's last offer contains no change in the provisions from the Agreement for the Fiscal Year 2001-2002. The effect of the Town's position would eliminate the Board's legal responsibility to give due consideration and weight to this factor. The “interest and welfare of the public” is a complex and multi-faceted concept which involves consideration of many significant components, including but not limited to the outcome of any particular election. 


There is one component which warrants special discussion and consideration. The turnover rate of police officers is 40 per cent per year. A newly hired officer must complete Academy training and ride-about with an experienced officer before he/she completes the probationary period and is qualified to work solo. This preliminary, relatively non-productive period extends some 22 weeks at a direct salary cost to the Town of $7985 per new officer. At the present time this costs the Town $12,776 per year in salaries as well as all the recruiting, intake, medical examination and field training costs. It appears that the total costs may approach 10 per cent of the Police Department's annual expenditures. In effect, the Town has become the training ground of probationary police officers for other cities; thus, the Town subsidizes other cities' recruiting and training costs. The Town did not contest the Union's contention that its bargaining positions on health and dental insurance and sick leave would make more attractive to current police officers their continued employment with the Town's Police Department. This outcome would save the town significant money and begin to ensure the retention and development of more experienced police officers. Such an outcome would improve further the service to the public and lessen the potential liability of the Town when less experienced police officers face extreme situations. 


The Union's last offer on Sick Leave would not increase the amount of sick leave a police officer could earn, utilize or carry over. In these regards the provisions are identical to those of other Town employees covered by the Personnel Policies. However, the Union proposes that “The employee can use sick leave in the event a spouse or child is sick.” The somewhat larger communities of Noble and Purcell provide this spouse/child provision; 67 per cent of the larger communities surveyed in Union Exhibit No. 2 also provide this spouse/child provision. The Union argued that the salary rate of police officers often requires the spouse to also work. Further, the Union argues that the frequency of single parent families makes this provision a necessity. The Town argues that this provision would discriminate against unmarried police officers. It is true that unmarried police officers who are also not single parents would not be able to utilize this benefit. However, the benefit would be available if the police officer subsequently marries and this differentiation in treatment is legal and prevalent. 


The Union's last offer on Funeral Leave would provide funeral leave for police officers when parents-in-law, brothers, sisters, former guardians and grandparents die. As such, the provision would return the right to take funeral leave to the status it was before the police officers voted to have the Union represent them. After that representation election, the Town deleted the deaths of these types of family members from consideration for family leave. 72 per cent of the communities ranging from Noble and Purcell to Oklahoma City provide this benefit; 33 per cent of the remainder provide for the use of sick leave to attend the funeral of these relatives. 


The Union proposes that the Town provide Health and Dental Insurance for police officers. The proposal provides either (A) the Town pay 100 per cent of the premium for such insurance or (B) “compensate the employee with three hundred ($300) dollars per month in lieu of providing a health insurance provider for the employees.” At least 31 of the 32 larger communities (Oklahoma City through Noble) provide at least employee insurance coverage and 50 per cent make at least some payment towards spouse and dependent coverage as well. Of the 32 smaller communities in Oklahoma (Coalgate through Seiling), at least 26 provide police officers with a health insurance plan. All of these communities whose starting salary is less than the Town's starting salary for police officers provide a health insurance plan. The Town of Union City ranks 19th in population of these smaller communities. It should be noted that the U.S. Department of Justice grant would provide money to the Town for Health and Dental Insurance premiums for three of the four police officers in the bargaining unit. Thus, the first year cost to the Town would be the premium for only one police officer. The Chairperson is of the opinion that the cost of this one police officer's premium would be more than offset by the likelihood of reduced turnover and related savings. (See prior discussion of the turnover consideration.) 


The Union's proposal for a Field Training Officer reserves to the Chief of Police the authority to “outline the Field Training Officer program and policy.” The proposal provides that such Field Training Officers will have full-time C.L.E.E.T. certification as a police officer and C.L.E.E.T. certification as a Field Training Officer. Two of the four police officers in the bargaining unit have both these certifications. The proposal would allow the Field Training Officer to choose whether to be paid an additional “two (2) dollars an hour extra while training a new recruit” or “receive two (2) hours of comp time per shift while training a new recruit.” The Chairperson considers this proposal to be reasonable in that it assures that those doing field training are well qualified to do the training. The current training consists of reading certain materials. A reduction in the turnover rate (see prior discussions) would lessen the demand for Field Training Officer activities over time. Additionally, the use of C.L.E.E.T. certified Field Training Officers should have the effect of lessening the Town's potential exposure to liability issues. 




In consideration of the entire record of the hearing, including Exhibits, the parties' Briefs and the Fire and Police Arbitration Act, it is the opinion of the Chairperson that the last best offer of the Union should be selected by the Board of Arbitration. 


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