Friday, December 5, 2008
Dispatchers unionize, contract negotiations in progress
Late in 2007, a majority of Carlisle dispatchers voted to join the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) labor union, forming Local 201a. Currently negotiations are in progress to draw up the first union contract, which will probably be retroactive to the beginning of Fiscal Year 2009, starting July 1, 2008.
According to the town’s current budget, dispatchers were eligible for a 3% pay raise on July 1. The raise has not been paid. Once the contract is signed, dispatchers will get the negotiated pay raise retroactive to the beginning of FY09.
In July 2006, dispatchers first voiced their intent to unionize. After a majority vote, Local 201a was formed and recognized by the town in late 2007. So far, the group has been operating under existing town procedures and no changes have occurred. Contract negotiations began about six months ago.
Negotiating for the dispatchers are Mike Taplin, head dispatcher and Manager of Public Safety Communications, and dispatcher Jack Greenhow, currently the president of Local 201a. They are assisted by an experienced union negotiator, who “drives the negotiation process,” according to Taplin.
The bargaining team for the town includes Police Chief John Sullivan, Fire Chief Dave Flannery and Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, with legal assistance from the firm of Mirick O’Connell, which assisted the town in the past during negotiations with the police union. Selectmen Tim Hult and Alan Carpenito oversee the process, but are not present at the meetings.
Carlisle Police officers belong to Mass C.O.P. Local 201. Police and dispatchers negotiate separate contracts.
According to Sullivan, developing the first contract is a very slow, tedious process, as all details of working conditions, grievance procedures, pay and benefits need to be spelled out. At this point, pay and benefits have not been discussed, and no changes in schedules have occurred.
While neither side will disclose any details of the negotiations, no one expects that the new contract will require any change in staffing from the current five full-time personnel. “We don’t have the volume to have two full-time dispatchers per shift. I don’t see the need myself,” says Taplin.
Hult believes that the main concerns are not about pay. “We’ve worked pretty hard to get comparable pay, but they really want some continuity in shifts. Actually it will be a good thing to have a focused discussion on schedules and get it all clarified.”
Taplin and his fellow dispatchers want “some level of control over our destiny. Policies and working conditions can’t be changed at the whim of the town; they have to be negotiated.”
Flannery takes a positive view. “Working with the union promotes professionalism and high standards. [Working as a dispatcher] is more than taking calls. I want the community to appreciate that.” ∆
© 2008 The