West Chester Twp. trustees agree to new union contracts

The West Chester Twp. trustees have ratified new union contracts with emergency 911 dispatchers and public works crews. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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The West Chester Twp. trustees have ratified new union contracts with emergency 911 dispatchers and public works crews. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Police and fire dispatchers and road crews, a total of 34 township employees, set to receive raises.

West Chester Twp. sealed new union deals with their police and fire dispatchers and road crews this week, agreements that will cost $171,811 over three years in raises for 34 township employees.

There are a dozen Fraternal Order of Police 911 dispatchers and they will receive the standard 3% pay hike for each of the first two years and 2.75% in the final year, for a total taxpayer cost of $62,947. The agreement was reached with ease according to Assistant Township Administrator Lisa Brown, after only two meetings.

“Our dispatch crew is the foundation of our emergency services, if we didn’t have good 911 operators our police wouldn’t know where to go, our fire department wouldn’t know where to go,” Trustee Ann Becker said. “They know every nook and cranny of this township and we’re grateful for that.”

Brown said the raises, overtime pay and medical insurance were the three main issues they negotiated. The union agreed as other bargaining units have to increase the employees’ cost share from 16% to 17% if non-union employees’ premiums increase.

The negotiation with the 22 service department employees took a bit longer and required two mediation sessions. Brown said the pay increase percentages are the same as the dispatchers’ for a total cost increase of $108,864 over three years.

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Brown told the Journal-News the main sticking point in the negotiation was wintertime vacations. She said their policies have been “very strict” because they don’t want to run into a situation where they are short staffed when snow plow drivers are needed.

“We were trying to work with the union to find a way where we could at least get some employees off without having to be recalled for a snow emergency,” Brown said. “While also maintaining staffing to meet our expectations and our community’s expectations.”

The township has six unions and Brown said they were negotiating these two simultaneously and sealed two other deals this year plus a re-opener. All contracts are three-year deals.

The largest union agreement reached this year was with the firefighters whose deal will cost $2.1 million including raises, step increases and benefits.

“You know in negotiations you get a little, you give a little and it all comes out for a win-win,” Trustee Mark Welch said of the lengthy process with the service workers. “That’s what we’re looking for is a win-win situation.”