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February 14, 2014

County employees accept contract

NEW CASTLE — Two government bargaining units have come to terms with Lawrence County on their contracts.

The workers, members of Construction and General Laborers Union Local 964, voted Feb. 7 in favor of the proposed contracts, which will grant raises in each of the three years. The contracts cover 128 people who are members of the court-related and court-appointed employees bargaining units.

“There were two agreements. Both contracts were approved overwhelmingly,” attorney Domenic A. Bellisario, counsel for 964, said Thursday.

The court-related employees voted 46 to 1 for the pact. The court-appointed group voted 35 to 14, according to information from some members. Not all members participated in the vote.

The commissioners must ratify the agreement before it goes into effect. Meanwhile, the employees have been working under the terms of their previous contracts that expired Dec. 31.

The bargaining units include workers in the offices of the prothonotary and clerk of courts, sheriff, register and recorder, district attorney and public defender.

The contracts will provide workers with a 1 percent wage increase this year, a 1.5 percent raise next year and a 2 percent hike the third year.

The county has agreed to pay 100 percent of the workers’ health insurance benefits this year. Next year, if the increase in the health care premiums is greater than 7 percent, the employees will pay half of the difference, and the same condition applies for the third year.

County administrator James Gagliano, who represented the county in negotiations, said the contracts will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

They also include a two-tier salary schedule to give new employees more parity in wages, Gagliano said. According to the new hire wage scale, new employees will be paid $1 less than what the current employee was earning.

“The base rates are very low, and the commissioners are aware of that and we’re trying to change that where we can.”

He said the employees also agreed to new vacation terms for new hires, which will require them to work longer to earn the number of vacation days current employees have.

Of the negotiations, he commented, “They were professional. There was a lot of give and take.”

Negotiators for the union were Bellisario and Donald Mangino, manager of Local 964, along with stewards from each department. Representing the county, in addition to Gagliano, were Commissioner Steve Craig, human resources director Karen King and attorney Michael Palumbo of Pittsburgh, special labor counsel.

The county has four bargaining units, whose contracts all expired Dec. 31.

The new court-related and court-appointed contract terms differ from those of a bargaining agreement ratified last month for jail employees, who also are members of Local 964. Their terms includes a wage freeze this year and $500 bonuses for both 2015 and 2016, with no change in base pay rates.

The jail workers also agreed to pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums.

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