SWANSEA — An ongoing dispute has been settled between the village of Swansea and its two police unions over what retiring police officers should get for unused sick leave.
The patrol officers' union, the sergeants' union and the village board have agreed that Police Department employees with at least 10 years of continuous service will be paid for accrued, unused sick leave upon their retirement, resignation or termination.
According to the grievance settlement agreement obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the first 504 hours of accrued, unused sick leave will be compensated at a rate of 50 percent of the employee's final rate of pay. Unused sick leave from 505 to 1,008 hours will be compensated at a rate of 100 percent of the employee's final rate of pay.
Employees will not receive any compensation for any remaining accrued, unused sick leave hours in excess of 1,008 hours. Swansea police department employees receive sick leave at a rate of 12 hours per month.
Swansea Mayor Jim Rauckman described the settlement as "fair."
"I don't think either side got a 100 percent of what they wanted," he said.
Swansea's settlement with its police unions is similar to what neighboring communities offer its officers who have accumulated sick leave.
Fairview Heights Police Chief Nicholas Gailius said officers with 20 years or more of service are reimbursed for accrued sick leave over 1,000 hours up to the cap of 1,440 hours. Sick leave hours are compensated at 50 percent of an employee's final pay, according to Gailius.
O'Fallon Police Department has a "generous sick leave buy-out policy," according to the city's Human Resources Director April Mitchell. She said police officers are compensated for their unused sick leave hours up to 1,040 at their base rate of pay.
In Belleville, only officers with 20 or more years of full-time service are permitted to be compensated for unused accumulated sick leave. According to the police officers' and sergeants' union contract, "employees who retire shall be eligible for cash payment of unused accumulated sick leave at a rate of $1.50 per hour for the first 1,000 hours and $3.75 per hour for all accumulated sick leave over 1,000 hours."
At least one community in the metro-east -- Shiloh -- doesn't compensate police employees for unused sick leave. Shiloh Police Chief Jim Stover said the village does not "buy back accrued sick leave when officers leave service or retire." Shiloh officers receive eight hours of sick leave per month with a maximum of 480 hours of sick leave permitted to be carried over from year to year.
The dispute between the village of Swansea and its police unions began in January, stemming from whether or not police officers should be paid for sick leave that wasn't used. The 19 police employees -- counting the chief and deputy chief, who are not union -- have a combined unused sick leave of just more than 20,000 hours.
In February, the Village Board denied a police union grievance that maintained retiring officers should get 50 percent of accumulated sick leave as paid time off with benefits, which the village granted four former police officers.
The settlement agreement is retroactive to May 1. It was approved by the Village Board at its Sept. 17 meeting.
David Frenzia with Lowenbaum Partnership LLC. in St. Louis, represented the village in negotiations with the police unions, which were represented by James Daniels.
The village remains in contract negotiations with both of its police unions. Rauckman said the settlement agreement over unused sick leave "was a very significant step forward in that process."
Both the patrol officer's union and the sergeant's union have been working without a contract since the current contract expired April 30.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.