MALONE — Sheriff’s Department union members rejected a second mediated-settlement offer after Franklin County legislators went public with the terms before the scheduled vote.
And the United Public Service Employees Union membership at the County Jail also said the county did not act in good faith because raises agreed upon in an earlier offer were pulled out of the second one.
GOING TO PERB
The union is filing a charge of improper practice with the State Public Employees Relations Board for the bad-faith charge and for prematurely publicizing the terms of the contract, said Phil Sedlock, the union’s labor-relations representative.
He said three legislators, County Manager Thomas Leitz and the county’s negotiator met with him and the union’s representatives, “and we agreed to a non-disclosure agreement.
“But as soon as we agreed to it, the county talked to the press.”
Sedlock was referring to a meeting of the County Legislature on Dec. 19 where legislators ratified the four-year contract in a 6-to-1 vote.
The employees have been without a contract since 2012, and the agreement the county OK’d gave no raises for 2012 or 2013.
But there is a provision for a 4-percent hike in 2014 and a 4.5-percent raise in 2015.
But Sedlock said an earlier mediated version of the contract included a 2013 wage hike.
“You can’t put an offer on the table, then take it away and say, ‘I didn’t mean that,’” he said. “We gave them everything they wanted.”
Those concessions included revised drug and alcohol testing, higher co-pays on health-insurance coverage, a cap on compensatory time and a reduced-wage scale for new hires.
“All we wanted were fair wages and longevity,” he said.
The union members felt they weren’t getting either in the latest deal, so they made their disappointment known through the vote.
“They were sending a message,” Sedlock said, adding that the agreement was rejected by a vote of 5 in favor to 42 opposed.
The original agreement, worked out with a mediator, was ratified by the union with a 27-20 vote but was then rejected by the county.
That forced the second mediated session.
The next step is a non-binding agreement worked out by a fact-finder, who accepts proposals from each side and makes a recommendation for settlement.
Sedlock said he is willing to meet with the county’s negotiating team without a mediator to see if a lasting settlement can be reached.
“I was the one who suggested we can sit down and get this done before it has to go to fact-finding,” he said.
County Manager Thomas Leitz said, “I don’t believe the door is closed, but at this point, given how far the union was from ratifying the contract, going to fact-finding might be the best course.”
He said there was no non-disclosure agreement, but when the union expressed concern about negative press coverage, he told its members that legislators must ratify contracts in public, not executive session.
Leitz added that the longer the negotiations drag on, the more expensive it gets for the county, which means there is less money available to dispense for raises.
Email Denise A. Raymo:firstname.lastname@example.org