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July 11, 2014

County’s AFSCME contract negotiations at standstill

NEW CASTLE — Members of one courthouse labor union continue to work without a contract while negotiations appear to be stalled.

Lawrence County administrator James Gagliano said talks between the county and the 60-member American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 2902 bargaining unit have not progressed since April.

AFSCME employees are workers in the officers of the treasurer, controller, maintenance, commissioners, elections, assessment, information technology, mental health and developmental services, children and youth services, veterans affairs and tax claim.

Their contract expired Dec. 31.

“The ball’s still in their court,” Gagliano and Commissioner Steve Craig said this week. Both are part of the county’s negotiating team.

The union canceled a May 2  session and made no further attempt to set a new date, Gagliano said.

A tentative agreement reached by negotiation teams was reached in February but rejected 33 to 9 by AFSCME members.

A second proposal, agreeable to the AFSCME team was rejected March 31 by the general membership.

Union members have been working under terms of the former contract during negotiations.

County negotiators proposed changing health insurance from Highmark PPO Blue to Community Blue, which does not include UPMC services.

 The change would save the county 3.83 percent this year and employees would not contribute anything for the first year of the contract. However, employees would have had to pay half the increase if costs exceeded 7 percent the second and third years. The county would pay the other half.

The county continues to pay the employees’ full benefits under the Highmark PPO Blue plan.

Commissioner Chairman Dan Vogler said if employees receive raises in future contracts, it will be up to the negotiating teams whether those raises will be retroactive.

“The offer on the table is 1, 1.5 and 2 percent raises in a three-year contract,” Craig said, “but they’re burning through that.”

Three other courthouse contracts — covering jail, court-related and court appointed employees under Construction and General Laborers Union Local 964 — were settled earlier this year. Those, too, had expired Dec. 31.

Attorney Michael Palumbo of Pittsburgh is representing the county in the AFSCME negotiations. His firm has billed the county about $8,000 so far.

Attempts to contact union manager Deborah Currie or any spokesman from the AFSCME office in Franklin were unsuccessful yesterday.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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