Press-Republican

January 31, 2013

Essex County union contract falls

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — It’s back to the bargaining table for Essex County and its union workers after the CSEA defeated a new contract offer by a better than 2-to-1 margin.

The proposed three-year contract for the local chapter of the Civil Service Employees Association union went down, 205 to 87, in Tuesday’s voting.

That means they will schedule more negotiating sessions, County Attorney Daniel Manning III said, to make another attempt. The last contract was a four-year pact that expired at the end of 2012.

“We’re not at impasse,” Manning said Wednesday. “The current contract stays in place. We’ll contact the union to see what it says.”

The proposed contract had no raises for this year, 1 percent pay increases for 2014 and 2 percent for 2015.

ISSUE WITH OVERTIME

CSEA Local 816 President Michael McGinn said the county wanted to do away with some overtime for certain workers, including some in the Sheriff’s Department, and that has been cited as one reason the contract failed.

“I put out feelers to see what people didn’t like. I’ll get those (forms) back in a week. Then we go back to the table.”

McGinn said he told county representatives that he’ll be ready to resume negotiations in one or two weeks.

He said workers don’t want to make concessions.

“If we can hold on to what we have, I’m happy.”

STEPS IN PROCESS

Manning said he can’t talk about specifics of the offer, just what comes next. He said several procedures have yet to be triggered that are designed to facilitate an agreement.

“We’ll find out from the union what the problems are, and we can go back to the table and try to resolve them.

“If we can’t, the union or us can file a formal declaration of impasse. Then it goes to a mediator, who will assist to get a voluntary agreement.”

The mediator’s work is not binding, he said.

If the mediator is unsuccessful, a fact-finding group is formed to engage in mediation, then the fact-finders transmit a report to the county and union, and the State Public Employee Relations Board can get involved to assist.

“During impasse, there is no change in salaries,” Manning said. “They stay what they were. There are no increases.”

RAISES

Union employees received 4 percent pay raises for 2011 and 2012, when other county workers were held to no increases.

This year, management-confidential and department heads got 2 percent pay increases, but no raises were budgeted for union workers in an attempt to address the pay differences of the previous two years.

County Manager Daniel Palmer said he can’t say much, either, about the proposed contract terms.

“It (the vote) just means we are back to the table.”

HUNDREDS IN UNION

Essex County has declared a budget crisis for each of the last three years, and budgets have included layoffs and deep cuts. A hiring freeze is currently in effect in the county.

The county has about 400 union workers out of about 700 employees.

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com