Town, APSB in disagreement over severance package issue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Members of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) and the town, led by Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, are in an apparent dispute after a decision was released regarding an arbitration hearing last Thursday.

The hearing was held in Toronto before arbitrator Larry Steinberg and involved members of the APSB as well as the Amherstburg Police Association and was held last Wednesday.

The decision, released the next morning, has the town and the APSB at different ends of the spectrum. According to DiCarlo, the decision did not suggest that Amherstburg police officers could simply leave and walk away with the money. Officers could receive four weeks for every year of service in severance but DiCarlo indicated that severance may only come into play if an Amherstburg officer is asked to take less to stay employed.

“The language in the collective agreement is referred to in the decision. If the town does not equalize or provide equal rank compensation salary, then the severances would kick in,” DiCarlo told the media after the second of two hotel announcements last Friday.

DiCarlo referred to the provision that reads: “In the event that the Board receives permission to disband the Service and contracts policing out to another police service, other than the Ontario Provincial Police, or amalgamates with another police service, any member of the Association who is not offered the same or higher rank or classification level without loss or seniority and an equivalent or improved salary and benefits package, as provided in Article 34.02(a), (b) and (c), or the member may elect to accept the position offered at the lower rank or classification and lower salary, in which case the board shall pay to the member the difference in salary provided in this Agreement and the salary received in the new position, for a period of two (2) years.”

“We maintain the position if we equalize everything between the two contracts, there would be no severances,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo touted the position that there will be $14-$15 million in savings over the 20-year contract and that there would be savings for the town “no matter what,” even if severances had to be paid out.

The arbitrator ruled that a “line-by-line approach must be conducted separately for each salary and benefits” and “I am of the opinion that the reference to ‘benefits’ includes all benefits in the collective agreement and not simply health and welfare benefits.”

The decision adds that: “In addition to the core dispute between the parties, it should be noted that the Association agreed in the event an employee elects to accept a position with the City of Windsor with inferior salary and benefits, the two-year salary top up referred to in the collective agreement only applies to salary and not benefits. The Association specifically reserved its right, however, to argue that the meaning of salary goes beyond the annual salaries in the collective agreements.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne, who is a member of the APSB, noted that the town can have the position it wants but it’s the board that handles severances. He believed there was “a lot of negativity and misinformation directed at the board” but the board has done “everything above board and on par.”

Lavigne believed DiCarlo has taken several positions on the issue while the APSB has always maintained the position there was a chance for anywhere from $0-$2.4 million in severances.

“We hired an out-of-town, very highly regarded law firm that specializes in police negotiations,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne questioned where the money would come from to cover severances, something that Rozankovic noted would have to come in one lump sum payment.

“We’re very confused with the conflicting statements coming out of town hall,” said Lavigne.

Rozankovic stated the arbitrator’s decision shows there is a 99.9 per cent “likelihood” that the town could be exposed to up to $2.4 million in severances.

“This has been knowledge here since the Feb. 26 council meeting. They were told then that there was a chance of $0-$2.4-million worth of severances. It was only a chance then but now, it’s a very severe likelihood, but again, not certain.”

Officers will begin getting job offers Oct. 27 and will have two weeks to consider them. Rozankovic believes there are about four to six that may not accept the offers.

Lavigne said they are not dealing in “conspiracy theories or innuendos,” that they are dealing with, stressing that it is “public knowledge.”

“It’s been misrepresented to the public,” he believed. “In my opinion, that has to with politics and not much to do with good governance.”

Lavigne also questioned the recent meeting regarding an alleged in-camera leak, believing it to be “smoke and mirrors” as the issue regarding police severances is that of the board and not council to begin with.

Rozankovic, the APSB chair, said the board has dealt with matters throughout the entire process with honesty and integrity.

“I am so proud of this board and the association that has had a lot of stress this year,” he said.

Lavigne didn’t believe council listened to the people during the process of switching to Windsor police and dismissed any notion of a “silent majority.” He said most polls, comments and information he heard opposed the switch.

“Democracy doesn’t work by listening to the silent majority,” he said. “I’ve been out there. Show me the silent majority.”

Rozankovic and Lavigne, both election candidates for deputy mayor and councillor respectively, say they are simply speaking the facts.

“People can say we’re playing politics but we’re telling the truth,” said Rozankovic.

Rozankovic compared the process to being “a square peg being forced into a round hole no matter what.”

Lavigne also questioned the morale that Amherstburg officers will have, adding that the town needs to get this issue over with and move forward. Both he and Rozankovic praised the Amherstburg officers and the training they received.

“This is a life decision for our officers,” Lavigne said, of the offers from Windsor police.

Rozankovic acknowledged the recent hotel announcements and believed the news of the arbitration hearing unfortunately came at the same time as those announcements.

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