York County Commissioners approve new contract for 911 dispatchers, others
Former York County 911 police dispatcher Keith Lotier talks about being fired after refusing mandated hours on weekend off. John A. Pavoncello, York Dispatch
The York County Commissioners on Wednesday, Aug. 29, approved a new three-year contract that includes pay raises for 911 dispatchers and workers in a variety of other county departments.
The new contract with the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees union comes on the heels of widespread complaints from dispatchers and the union about staffing, morale and management issues at the 911 center.
The contract boosts the pay for 145 employees within the county's Facilities Management Department, Assessment and Tax Claim Office, 911 center and more.
For dispatchers specifically, the contract with AFSCME is an attempt by the county to improve staffing and retention issues within the 911 center.
The contract includes pay raises — increasing starting hourly wages from $12.50 to $14.50 — and also gives dispatchers double-pay if they work beyond 12 hours.
Although only 12-hour mandates were agreed to by the union, the center consistently mandates dispatchers beyond 12 hours if deemed necessary to run the center.
The new contract includes such language to allow the center to mandate dispatchers as many hours as deemed necessary for "operational needs."
The York Dispatch had previously reported that such a clause was already in the previous contract.
However, county spokesman Mark Walters clarified Wednesday that the center's ability to mandate overtime for employees was previously just "implied in the county's interpretation of the agreement."
As a result of the excessive mandates, dispatchers have said they are over-worked to the point of exhaustion.
Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke said the county "can't prevent" shifts beyond 12 hours because the center doesn't have enough employees.
The center currently has 51 employees — 34 of whom are dispatchers — but budgets for 86. Twenty-five dispatchers have quit their jobs at the center this year alone.
Other changes to the contract include the elimination of the discipline point system.
Previously, the center gave points to dispatchers for refusing mandates, missing work or other issues, which could eventually lead to termination.
Instead, the center now will utilize different stages of discipline, and for each offense, the employee would move up one stage.
Management would decide what stage of discipline comes first based on the severity of the offense, the contract states.
The stages are:
- Verbal Reprimand
- Written Reprimand
- One-Day Suspension
- Three-Day Suspension
- Five-Day Suspension
The clarifications and pay raises should help the center's staffing issues, Hoke said.
"Retention and staffing in the center are issues we're completely aware of," he said. "I'm just happy the union and the county came to a compromise; the wage increases are appropriate and will improve retention of employees."
The commissioner added that the county has been in frequent contact with the union to discuss the center's issues and that the contract is "the first step to get along and create more awareness out there" as the county looks for further solutions.
AFSCME director Steve Mullen previously confirmed that the union has been in at least monthly contact with the commissioners and said the contract is a good first step.
He also added he wasn't sure that the commissioners have a plan beyond the pay raises to address staffing and morale issues.
"We continue to talk with management at least on a monthly basis to keep on them to see what they're doing about the staffing issues, but quite frankly, I don't think they have a plan," he previously told The York Dispatch.