Austintown dispatchers get new 3-year contract
AUSTINTOWN — Trustees this week announced that the township has reached an agreement with the police union on a new contract for dispatchers.
The three-year contract with the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (OPBA) Dispatch Unit that represents 20 dispatchers runs through March 31, 2026 and is retroactive to April 1, 2023.
In addition to the township’s safety services, Austintown contracts through the Mahoning County Council of Governments to provide dispatch services for 20 other agencies across the county.
The new contract increases base rate wages based on experience level, adds a new pay structure for dispatch leadership, makes scheduling allowances and adds incentives at lower tiers that the township hopes will help with recruiting.
Representatives of both sides say they are happy with the new terms.
“As a result of numerous meetings, discussions and negotiating sessions, we were able to achieve a mutually beneficial collective bargaining agreement that recognizes the dedication and importance of the Dispatch Employees as well as the budget realities of the Township,” Mark D’Apolito, township administrator said. “We are optimistic that this agreement will enable the township to attract and retain talented dispatchers that are essential for the support of safety services.”
“The bargaining unit approved the contract overwhelmingly, and they were very satisfied that we were able to make a number of changes to operations that we were asking for,” said Danielle Chaffin, OPBA general counsel in the North Royalton office. “Another big thing, because hiring is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we added a provision to give employees vacation time in their first year, which is uncommon in government contracts, so that’s something that will attract new talent to Austintown as they continue to grow.”
At the probationary and sub-one-year levels, the base rate increased by 70 cents per hour and provides for 3% annual increases. Dispatchers at one year and beyond will see a $1 per hour increase along with the 3% annual raises, which D’Apolito said is consistent with increases provided to other departments.
The discrepancy in the increase between the experience levels is made up with vacation time. Newly hired dispatchers had access to personal days, but could not accrue or use any vacation time until after their first year on the job.
“The lack of vacation days made it difficult for us to attract talented new people,” D’Apolito said.
New dispatchers can now earn up to three days of vacation time in their first year.
The contract also ensured that the busiest dispatch shifts will have lead dispatchers and / or dispatch supervisors on hand. Under the previous contract, many shifts only had terminal agency coordinators (TACs) providing support to dispatchers.
D’Apolito said it will be helpful to police and fire crews to have a stronger chain of command in the dispatch center.
Dispatchers also gained more scheduling flexibility. D’Apolito said dispatch schedules were locked in three months in advance, and the new contract allows dispatchers to switch shifts within reason during set scheduling periods.
Chaffin said she appreciated the ease of the negotiations.
“(Austintown Police Chief Robert Gavalier) really worked with dispatch supervisors to make sure his employees were happy, and it was the same with Mark. I think we hammered this out all in one meeting.”
D’Apolito said his respect for the dispatchers made negotiating such a mutually beneficial deal very easy.
“Within the last several years, they’ve gone from dispatching for just two agencies (Austintown police and fire) to dispatching for 22 agencies, and I’m very proud of their growth and their work and their professionalism,” he said.