COLUMBUS, Ohio – State troopers are a bit hot under the collar in a dispute with management over who determines when they can switch from long-sleeved to short-sleeved uniforms.
Troopers had wanted to switch to short sleeves earlier than the April 15 date specified by the union contract because of this year’s unusually warm spring and record-high temperatures, the Columbus Dispatch reported. But they opted to stick with long sleeves and ties after the State Highway Patrol superintendent, Col. John Born, told the union on Thursday that they could switch early only if management gets to make the call in future years.
The contract says short-sleeved, open-collared uniforms can be worn from April 15 to Nov. 1. Management made the decision on when the switch was made until three years ago, when the union succeeded in getting the dates it had wanted.
Union president Larry Phillips says the patrol is trying to revert to old ways, but patrol spokeswoman Anne Ralston says Born is following the contract.
“The patrol saw this as an opportunity to make changes to what they lost back in 2009,” said Phillips, who heads the 1,750-member Ohio State Troopers Association.
Ralston said that the old contract gave management flexibility to take into account unseasonably warm or cold weather and adjust accordingly.
“The employer was willing to change,” she said of the short-sleeved request. “However, the union was unwilling to return that original management right back to the employer.”
Phillips says the patrol talks about how troopers working the road are taking drugs off the streets and reducing traffic fatalities. Allowing the earlier switch to short sleeves “would have been a way they could have rewarded people” at no cost, he said.
Phillips said he asked Born’s office on Tuesday about switching to short sleeves sooner than the contract allows after a trooper asked him to make the request.
When the long-sleeved uniform is worn with a tie and combined with a protective vest, a trooper’s “body temperature gets significantly higher,” especially in 80-degree weather, Phillips said.
The short-sleeved uniform’s open collar allows some “air under the shirt,” Phillips said.
He said the union asked for the dates in the current contract because management previously would not allow the switch to short sleeves until May and would return to long sleeves in October. The April 15-Nov. 1 timeline gives troopers and other patrol employees a little more time in short sleeves, he said.
A meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office says that while temperatures the rest of the month are expected to be cooler than in the past couple of weeks, they probably will remain above normal across most of the state. Ohio’s normal highs in early April are the mid- to upper 50s in the north and closer to 60 degrees in the south, meteorologist Mark Kurz said.