Union seeking outside assistance - Press-Republican: Local News

Union seeking outside assistance

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 3:28 am

MALONE — A continuing stalemate between Franklin County and Sheriff’s Department employees has led the union to seek a fact-finder to draw up a possible settlement.

The union says it wants both parties to be bound to the final recommendation, but the county may not be willing to go that far, according to the county manager.

NO PACT SINCE 2011

Members of the United Public Service Employees Union at the County Jail have not had a new contract with the county since 2011.

Talks have been held off and on since then with no resolution. The main sticking points concern health-insurance benefits, compensatory time and wages.

‘WILLING TO LISTEN’

Phil Sedlock, the union’s labor-relations representative, said the two sides can continue talking as the fact-finding request is under review by the State Public Employment Relations Board.

But it is likely the issues will not be settled without a fact-finder “unless the county offers more,” he said.

One area that union members are firm about involves wages and benefits for future employees hired under a new contract. But they are willing to listen, Sedlock said.

“We didn’t want the whole process to be a waste, so we’re going to request fact-finding.”

ASSURANCE SOUGHT

Each side will offer written arguments to the fact-finder, who will then draw up a proposed compromise, but it would be non-binding.

The county and the union each vote on the proposal, but no one is locked in to the deal, which is something Sedlock would like to see changed.

“The union and its members feel strongly that this process can be a fair and neutral settlement,” he said in a news release.

“However, the fact-finding process can be ineffective and useless unless both parties are committed to attaining a solution.

“The union is willing to allow the fact-finder’s decision to resolve this long-standing dispute,” he said. “We hope the Franklin County sheriff and legislature feel the same way.”

‘DIFFICULT REQUEST’

But County Manager Thomas Leitz said that a binding agreement “would involve the Board of Legislators giving up their authority in this matter.

“The Board of Legislators is the final authority in Franklin County in all budgeting matters, and that is what this comes down to,” he said. “So giving up their authority is a difficult request.

“The legislators will discuss it, but it is a difficult request,” Leitz said.

RAISES REJECTED

The county initially offered the jail employees 2 percent raises retroactive to Aug. 21, another 2 percent in 2014 and 2.5 percent in 2015.

But that offer was rejected in September, leaving the county to declare an impasse.

Subsequent votes on revised settlement offers, which have not been made public, have gone down in defeat, which has led to the request of a fact-finder.

Sedlock believes someone could be named to hear the case within a few weeks, and that person would set the deadline for submitting written arguments.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com