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County and Union negotiations still on the table
Contract negotiations between Kitsap County and labor unions representing more than 740 county employees are continuing, according to Fernando Conill, Labor Relations Manager for Kitsap County.
The county has been in negotiations with the 19 unions that operate under 13 different contracts since earlier this year. In total, the unions represent about 65 percent of the 1,134 county employees.
Most of the unions or guilds have been operating under previous contracts, some which date back to 2010. The county’s goal is to get the contracts of the various employee groups up to date and extend the agreed-to contracts through 2014.
According to Conill, the county is negotiating with each group individually, except where several unions are grouped together and work under a master contract. He said some of the contract negotiations began in September, others are in progress and some groups are just getting underway, depending on the union.
Although some employees have been working without an updated contract for months, Conill said there has not been any interruption in county services due to the labor negotiations and he did not anticipate any in the future.
Conill said the negotiation process can be delicate and sensitive and because of that he declined to discuss specifics of any of the contract offers in public. He said it wasn’t productive and he wanted to maintain the respect of the bargaining process at the table.
In general, he said, most county employees represented by bargaining units have been operating under a county wage freeze without any cost-of-living raises since 2009. The county has offered its non-union employees a 2 percent cost-of-living raise beginning in January and he said similar offers are being made to union employees during the various contract negotiations.
He added that the COLA offer also has a need for concessions on the part of the union employees, but would not be specific. He said such things as giving up longevity premiums are being discussed as part of that.
Like with the non-union employees, the county has agreed to no new costs on the part of the union employees for their health care insurance in 2013.
The county is switching to a self-insurance program in 2013 for all employees and as a part of that, the county board of commissioners agreed to stipulate that the costs to the employee of that new program would remain the same as what they are currently paying.
Conill said there are only four of the unions in the county who have interest arbitration whereby if the negotiation process fails to reach agreement an arbitrator reviews the contract offers and makes a decision which is binding on both the county and the specific union. Among those is the Deputy Sheriffs Guild which currently is in arbitration.
Jacquelyn Aufderheide, chief civil deputy prosecutor, who represents Kitsap County on labor and employment matters, said that arbitration hearings in October lasted more than four days and parties are now preparing the post-hearing briefs to be submitted to the arbitrator. A final decision on that contract is expected sometime in late February.
Representatives of the various unions who were contacted declined comment.
One public relations firm hired to represent the CenCom 911Supervisors and Employees Guild said it was not in a position to provide specifics at this time.
The contact person, Ginger Vaughan, said the negotiations are on-going and 911 Guild members are particularly concerned about across-the-board cuts to benefits, longevity, overtime and COLA increases.
She said she did not expect any kind of agreement before the end of the year and that Guild employees would remain working under the current contract and extend negotiations into 2013.
The county unions involved in contract negotiations are: 911 Employees Guild, about 59 employees; the AFSCME Local 1308 Courthouse Employees, at 230 employees; AFSCME Local 1308 Courthouse Supervisors at 23 employees; the Corrections Officers Guild with 72 employees; The Public Works Employees Roads and Utilities divisions (Operating engineers 302, Teamsters 589, IAM and AW District 160 /282 and the Laborers Union 252) with 59 employees; The Deputy Sheriffs Guild with 103 employees; the Juvenile Detention OPEIU Local 11, recently renamed to the Juvenile Detention Officers Guild, with 25 employees; the Lieutenants Association IUPA, with seven employees; the Parks and Recreation Teamsters Local 589 with 21 employees; the Prosecuting Attorney Guild with 28 employees; and the Sheriff’s Support Guild with 26 employees.
In addition to contract negotiations, Conill said there is a committee representing the county and various unions that is working on coming to agreement on the 2014 county employee’s benefits package. This group will continue working in 2013 until an agreement is reached.
Leslie Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.