By Erin Achenbach
Crestwood and union representatives of the Crestwood Police Department have reached a tentative agreement after nearly two-and-a-half years of negotiations, after the police rejected a previous contract last year.
“Negotiations have been going off and on since about June of 2016, but the two sides have worked amicably together to reach a tentative agreement that all feel is beneficial,” said attorney James Hetlage, city representative, while presenting the agreement to the Board of Aldermen for a public hearing last week.
Aldermen took no action yet on the agreement. The union, Teamsters Local Union No. 610, previously rejected a contract the city offered a year ago after the Police Department first unionized in April 2016.
Crestwood officers were the first in the St. Louis region to be represented by the Teamsters.
The three-year collective bargaining agreement would be applicable to all members of the Crestwood police force, including probationary officers and detectives, but would exclude the chief, deputy chief, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, dispatchers and clerical employees.
Membership in the union would be voluntary. Officers would have the option of paying a service charge voluntarily each month to the Teamsters in an amount equal to union monthly dues.
“Both the union and the city agree that they will not discriminate against any employee who decides to join or not join the union, and that is important,” said Hetlage. “Both the union and the city recognize that membership in the police union is voluntary. No police officer is required to join. No police officer is required to pay dues if they elect not to join.”
Under the agreement, Crestwood would have exclusive management rights over the Police Department.
Insurance, grievances, performance evaluations, holidays, sick leave and other management items would be handled by the city in the same manner that the city treats its other employees.
“Other provisions, things such as disciplinary procedures and disciplinary actions…those will be handled pursuant to the existing general orders that exist in the Police Department. And the agreement will not change the authority that the chief has,” said Hetlage. “The grievance procedure is the same that exists for all employees throughout the city… Performance evaluations will also be handled like they are handled for all other city employees. Health, dental, vision insurance is going to be provided to the police officers on the same terms that it’s provided to all the other employees in the city.”
The agreement also outlined raises. Crestwood increased salary ranges, effective Jan. 1. Starting pay for officers with no prior experience went up by $4,820, from $45,180 to $50,000. Pay now maxes out at $70,000, up from $65,406. Under the plan, the Board of Aldermen would also have the responsibility of establishing the amount to be used for merit increases each year, using money from Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in April 2017 and approved by the St. Louis County Council for county police pay raises in November 2017.
Crestwood receives a percentage of the money each year, as does every other city in the county.
During a public hearing on the plan, resident Martha Duchild, a former member of Crestwood’s Civil Service Board, criticized the agreement’s use of that board to handle grievance appeals. Duchild alleged that the Civil Service Board had acted unethically in the past and would not protect an officer’s rights to privacy going through the grievance appeal process.
“I have here the agenda from the Oct. 23 Civil Service Board meeting, in which, in a complete breach of privacy, (the board) published not only the name of the employee who filed a grievance appeal, but listed the nature of the grievance,” said Duchild.
“Perhaps as a condition of approving the collective bargaining agreement, the union representatives can demand that changes be made to the city code to ensure that the grievance appeal review by the Civil Service Board is conducted in a completely fair, independent and objective manner.”
Other provisions in the agreement include that there can be no strikes by union or lockouts by the city, since officers provide a vital service to the public.