2/15/08

Teamster hassles in Sheriff's Office

Fact-finding recommendations made to settle differences between Teamsters Local 637 and the Licking County (NJ) Sheriff's Office were rejected by deputies, sergeants and nurses. Many of the issues might be heading to binding conciliation. The report by an impartial fact finder details differences between the parties on 15 issues, including wage scales, health insurance, uniforms and allowances.

Although the civilian employees received enough votes to pass the fact-finding report, John Sheriff, a spokesman for the Teamsters, said this might be because of a combination of yes votes and individuals who did not show up. Sixty percent of each classification was needed to vote "no" to reject the recommendations.

Sheriff said more issues than usual were brought to the fact finder, but it was simply because there were more disagreements.

In a fact-finding report, a neutral party looks at each issue and makes a middle-ground suggestion based on what he or she thinks is needed. Now that the fact-finding recommendations have been rejected, the union and the sheriff still can agree on individual issues.

However, for the issues on which they cannot agree, a conciliator will consider both sides and choose one or the other.

"(He or she) makes a final and binding decision," Sheriff said. "They don't split the difference."

Sheriff said the biggest issue for the union is health care.

Instead of the county health care now offered to employees, the union wants the sheriff's office to participate in the Michigan Conference of Teamsters Welfare Fund, which they said will result in a premium decrease. The union also wants the county to pay 100 percent of the reduced premiums.

"Our employees are paying $3,000-plus for the plans," Sheriff said. "The (Teamsters plan) is much cheaper."

In the fact-finding report, management argued the sheriff lacks the authority to make such an agreement and management expect costs to increase after a guaranteed period.

Although incorrect information initially was provided to the union about the current cost of benefits, Sheriff said the Teamster plan still would be cheaper.

The union also wants a 6 percent increase in wages, while the sheriff only wants a 2 percent increase.

"(The raise is justified) because of the comparables in other counties and because they are paying out so much toward their health care," Sheriff said.

At least three hours of pay at two times the regular pay rate was requested by the union for work performed on a regular day off or pre-approved vacation day. The sheriff proposed an increase but only from two guaranteed hours to three at the regular rate or the actual hours worked at the applicable rate.

The union also wants to establish a joint committee composed of union and sheriff members to determine examination criteria, a larger uniform allowance and replacement of damaged items, more sick leave, more days applicable for sick-leave conversion, more personal days and a guarantee of acceptance when requested a week in advance and sworn deputies in the jail.

Sheriff Randy Thorp could not be reached for comment.

(centralohio.com)

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