The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 11, 2009

Selectmen consider payroll grievance issue

Head Dispatcher Mike Taplin, took his department’s payroll grievance to the Board of Selectmen on September 8. The issue relates to “differential pay” for leave time. Differential pay is the higher rate paid to employees working the less attractive night shifts. Employees may work a mix of day and night shifts and they have been receiving the differential rate whenever leave time (e.g. vacation, illness or bereavement) is taken during a scheduled night shift. Dispatchers have received the normal pay rate when leave time is taken during a day shift.

Taplin spoke about the “past practice” of paying the higher rate as leading him to believe this was a standard benefit that the town paid to communications dispatchers. He reviewed the recent history of the grievance, and noted Police Chief John Sullivan first flagged the issue to him in mid-June – one week after the communications dispatchers finalized a labor contract with the Town of Carlisle to unionize as part of the Police Department (see July 31 “Mosquito”). Sullivan then followed up in writing on June 26. Since that time, Taplin said that he has not paid the higher rate to dispatchers when preparing payroll, but he has raised a grievance on behalf of the communications dispatchers which is now at “Step 3” in the process.

“Never at any time in contract negotiations was this brought up,” said Taplin. “It should have been if it was an issue.” He asked the item be addressed in future contract negotiations. Clare Schroeder, a police sergeant from Waltham and a business agent involved for the Massachusetts union, referred to the 12 previous years that Carlisle had paid the differential rate for leaves paid to dispatchers that regularly worked the night shift. She said that the change made right after signing of the contract could be interpreted as “unfair business practice.” She said “the decision to unionize does not negate past practice” but added “at least I don’t think it does.” She had found the Carlisle Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie as “fair” during negotiations but said that she found the change “arbitrary” and felt that the dispatchers had been “blindsided.”

Selectman Chair Timothy Hult asked Police Chief John Sullivan how the police department handled leave payments. Sullivan responded that the police department did not pay a higher rate for time not worked. Sullivan noted that the first time that he had heard that the communications department handled this compensation issue differently was in June when it “was brought to my attention from Town Hall payroll.” The amount in question comes to $400, and Sullivan did not believe he had budgeted for the amount in this year’s budget.

The Selectmen plan to make a decision at their next meeting on September 22. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito