Editorial follows below, CTV Barrie reports “A ruling by the Ontario Civilian Policing Commission all but puts an end to the Midland Police Service.
The nearly 40 members from Midland police will be let go within the next three weeks, as the OPP take over policing duties in the town.
It’s believed that three quarters of Midland’s current officers will be hired by provincial police.
“The primary concern for our membership is the folks who don’t transition to the OPP, either because they chose not to apply or they don’t make the cut. There’s the potential the town may sever them and stop paying them and leave it up to the arbitration system,” says Bill Gordon, vice president of the Midland Police Association.
Mayor Gord McKay says the town will treat those members fairly.
“I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished with this and I’m sleeping well at night and this is a good decision for Midland and its future,” he says.
The math says Midland could see savings of $6 million over six years. However, those numbers could change, following the arbitration process and payouts to those let go.
“The fact that this was not a smooth patch-over, as we were once led to believe by this council and the board; that every member was effectively invited to apply for a job and went through the same competition process that they would if they were just off the street and applying on the website,” says Gordon.
McKay says he’s not aware of any gamesmanship.
“The one hold-up that may be frustrating to a lot of officers that the OPP told us right at the start of this that they couldn’t make any offers of employment until the OCPC had rendered a decision.”
After the OPP take over, Midland officers and staff will undergo four weeks of training.
Also read Simcoe.com coverage
Listen to Rock95 coverage
We approached a few sources at the Midland Police to learn more about the concerns raised by their association, specifically to find out about the issue raised of not being paid severance until the arbitration process concludes sometime months away.
Here is what we learned, and it is seems to fly in the face of the Mayor’s assurances that the staff will be treated “fairly”.
The Midland Police collective agreements (which we are trying to get via FOI) state that each member of the police service who is terminated as a result of the OPP takeover, gets severance. The town is choosing to interpret the language so that they only have to pay staff who “don’t get a job with the OPP”. The Midland Police staff say that they will ALL be terminated and that will trigger their severance provisions regardless of their decision to apply or their success in an application to the OPP. The fact that they could find work with the OPP or anywhere else does not negate that obligation to pay them for their years of service to the town. That will mean substantially more money to pay out than the town had hoped for and will cut deeply into the savings that they have been trying to sell as the reason for the switch to OPP. That is a real problem for the Mayor and the Police Service Board, either because they failed to read the contract or did so incorrectly. That will be an issue that will be subject to the arbitration process and could see awards far higher than the current values – but no lower.
A broader issue seems to be, what happens to the staff who don’t get jobs with the OPP. The possibility that we’ve learned is that the town knows they have to pay the severance to those staff, but since the matter is heading for arbitration, they may choose to hold the severance ransom until a settlement is reached, which could be as late as May or June 2018.
It seems that in the recent past (as with the dispatchers who were all terminated in late 2015), staff who were terminated were given the opportunity to take their severance as a lump sum, or take it in two chunks over two tax years, or simply continue to draw on the funds every two weeks until the funds were exhausted. “It seems as though the board and town do not want to offer those options this last time and have not provided any dialogue with the police staff about options.”
It seems that the right thing to do is to come clean on their intentions and negotiate with the police staff on how and when to pay severances. Why wait to be ordered to do something that they know is both right and inevitable. Why pay tax dollars in arbitration? We have long suspected that the reason is to try to deflect blame for severances onto the arbitration system rather than accept that they were never negotiable and simply a cost of disbanding the community police service.
After looking into all of this ugliness, it now makes sense when we hear the Mayor denying any “gamesmanship” in the video above. It seems that the games are far from over even though the police service’s fate is sealed.