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Tentative Agreement Reached On PD Communications Schedules – Ready For Your Vote!

We are happy to announce that MEA and the City have reached a tentative agreement regarding new schedules in Police Communications, subject to a favorable majority vote by MEA-represented employees.

The proposed schedule for phone and radio eliminates late graves and B and C squads.  It gets the dispatch schedule back to basics with four original 10-hour shifts: early days, late days, swings and early graves.  At the same time, with one small exception related to swings, all of the remaining shift hours will remain as they currently are, minimizing disruptions in dispatchers’ lives. 

We embarked on this project with some simple goals:

We believe that the proposed schedule achieves those goals and represents substantial forward progress for Communications. With your approval, the new schedule would be effective for the September 2016 shift change.

These tentative new schedules are the product of a tremendous amount of input from you, as well as the tireless work of a core group of your colleagues (Harry Robinson, Mary Enyeart, Terri Darling and Rebecca Day), who dedicated significant personal time over the last several months to get to where we are today.  They have served in a challenging and often times thankless role. They have also shown great courage in speaking honestly and forthrightly on behalf of all dispatchers when sitting across the bargaining table from various Police Department and City officials including the Chief and Mayor Faulconer himself. Their personal involvement has made all the difference in this process.

We also would not have achieved this tentative agreement without the support and trust of Police Department management, top City officials and the Mayor personally.  We are grateful to everyone involved for the positive, constructive working relationship with Captain Hara and PD management.

Attached to this email are the proposed radio, phone, lead and supervisor schedules.  The attached schedules are premised on having 49 available dispatchers for phones, 38 for radio, 9.5 in lead positions and 11 as supervisors. However, we are hopeful that there will be additional staffing in place by September when this schedule would take effect.  As those base staffing numbers increase, so too will the coverage shown in the attached drafts.

There will be a separate vote for leads and supervisors, who will choose between 1) the same four-shift schedule that the radio and phone rooms are voting on, or 2) a different three-shift schedule that eliminates late days. More details specific to the schedule vote for leads and supervisors is attached in a document titled “Additional Information That Only Applies To Leads and Supervisors.”

The next step in this process is for MEA members in Communications to vote on this proposal.  Attached to this email are two ballots: one for radio/phone dispatchers, and one for leads/supervisors. Please print and complete the ballot that applies to your classification and return that ballot to MEA no later than Wednesday, June 22 at 1200.  Additional details on how to return your ballot to MEA are below in the question and answers section.

For dispatchers who have questions or need more information about the proposed schedules, this deadline for returning your ballot should allow sufficient time for you to get your questions answered. The goal is for everyone to make a fully informed vote.

In anticipation of that process, we have prepared some likely questions and answers below:

Q:  How did the team come up with the proposed phone and radio schedule?

A: The guts of this schedule have been discussed at various times over the last four years. Using the staffing minimums as a starting point, it is clear that phone dispatchers are spread too thin among six shifts and radio dispatchers among five shifts. Eliminating late graves and B and C squads was also a priority. A basic four shift schedule was created for both rooms to boost staffing during the busiest hours (1000-2000) without unnecessarily disrupting dispatchers’ lives.

Q:  Were there other approaches considered for radio and phones with a different number of shifts and different start/end times?

A: Yes.  However, further reducing shifts for radio and phones would reduce shift choices too much and force shift times to change in unfavorable ways, such as early graves ending at 0815 instead of 0545. Though there is no perfect outcome, we believe the four shift schedule will work best for the vast majority of dispatchers and also improve staffing coverage.

Q: What are the start and end times for the four radio and phone shifts?

A: Early days will be 0530-1530. Late days will be 1000-2000. Swings will be 1330-2330. And early graves will be 1945-0545.

Q: Why was the swing shift start time moved to 1330 and the end time to 2330?  What is the benefit?

A: Call data shows that 1330-1430 has twice the call volume as 2330-0030, so the new start time should help with staffing during the busier time. In addition, the earlier end time of 2330 is likely preferable for most dispatchers yet will not force other shift times to change. Finally, swing shift employees will still receive shift differential pay even though the shift is moved back by one hour.

Q: It seems like the proposed phone and radio schedule has pretty good coverage relative to the staffing minimums for most hours in the day with the exception of 1530-2000.  Is that a concern?

A: Based on dispatcher input, we believe those hours are relatively popular and convenient for overtime and therefore are likely to end up having much more coverage than the base schedule.  In addition, Communications Division management will be targeting those hours with additional operational focus (for example, the assignment of hourly dispatchers) that should improve staffing during that time.

Q:  Will this schedule end mandatory overtime?

A:  No, not by itself.  No schedule can “fix” the current staffing shortage – only additional staff can do that.  The Police Department and the City are doing everything they can on the recruitment front, and the results so far are positive.  The City also recognizes that retention of existing personnel is critical to improving staffing – the City can’t hire its way out of this problem if we keep losing personnel to other agencies and other divisions/departments within the City.  Working with dispatchers, the City has addressed that, in part, by making (and will continue to make) positive operational and management changes. The recently announced compensation improvements are significant and will also support retention of existing dispatchers and help attract new applicants.

Q:  Will this schedule at least reduce mandatory overtime?

A:  We believe so but, as noted above, a meaningful reduction in mandatory overtime will also require forward progress on staffing numbers.  As the impacts of this new schedule become known beginning in September, we will continue to work with PD management at our Labor Management Committee (LMC) meetings on reducing and eventually ending mandatory overtime.

Q:  Was it necessary to eliminate point bump and preferred shift for radio?

A: Yes. When transitioning to a new schedule that eliminates existing shifts, it is necessary to eliminate the point bump and preferred shift. We recognize that there are differing views on this and we considered them all. However, in order to keep the schedule as simple and unified as possible, we believe elimination of point bump and preferred shift will prove to be the most fair to all.  The phone room has already been working on a seniority-based schedule for years and the point bump system in radio is often a point of contention during shift change.

Q:  Who is eligible to vote on the proposed phone and radio room schedule change?

A:  MEA members in MEA-represented radio and phone classifications in PD Communications (Dispatcher 1 & 2 and Police Dispatcher), who are full or half time employees are eligible to vote. Hourly and provisional Communications employees are not eligible to vote.

Q:  Who is eligible to vote on the proposed lead and supervisor schedule change?

A:  MEA members in MEA-represented lead and supervisor classifications in PD Communications (Police Lead Dispatcher and Police Dispatch Supervisor) who are full or half time employees are eligible to vote.  Hourly and provisional Communications employees are not eligible to vote.

Q:  If I am a fee payer now, can I vote if I become a MEA member before the voting ends?

A:  Yes.  Just contact MEA for a membership application. Currently more than 95% of Communications Division employees are MEA members.

Q:  What happens if the majority vote is YES on the radio and phone schedule?

A:  The schedule will be implemented as a “pilot program” effective for the next shift change beginning September 10, 2016.

Q:  What happens if the majority vote is NO on the radio and phone schedule?

A:  This schedule will not be implemented for the new shift change and the status quo will remain. The City can then be expected to ask MEA to return to the bargaining table on schedules. While the outcome of such negotiations is uncertain, it is unlikely that a result better than the current proposal could be achieved for dispatchers.

Q: Which lead/supervisor schedule will be implemented for the next shift change?

A: Whichever schedule receives a majority vote in the lead/supervisor election.

Q: Is my vote confidential?

A: Yes. Individual votes will not be shared with any PD or other City employee, including the dispatcher members of MEA’s negotiating team or management or anyone else. Your name and classification are needed on each vote only to verify your voting eligibility and to ensure that there are not any duplicate votes.

Q: How do I return my vote to MEA?

A: The best way is to email/PDF your ballot to Mike Zucchet at mzucchet@sdmea.org. Once we receive your ballot, we will send you a return email confirming receipt. You can also physically bring your ballot to MEA’s office in Kearny Mesa (9620 Chesapeake Drive, Suite 203). If neither of these methods is convenient for you, please contact Mike and we will do our best to accommodate whatever method of voting works best for you.

There will undoubtedly be additional questions, but hopefully the above questions and answers will help you on your way to an informed decision. After reviewing all of this information and the attached draft schedules, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mike Zucchet (mzucchet@sdmea.org or 619-234-6632), Harry Robinson, Mary Enyeart, Terri Darling or Rebecca Day if you have questions or need more information on any aspect of this process.

Thank you again for all that you do to serve the public in your critical positions — and for all you have put up with during the last few years to provide services under considerable strain and even duress. Positive change has arrived at Police Communications and hopefully we can continue the momentum and forward progress with the implementation of this new schedule.

Now it’s up to you – cast your ballot and return it to MEA by Wednesday, June 22nd at 1200. Thank you!

–Mike Zucchet

MEA General Manager