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County approves union contract

March 04, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

County approves union contract

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday night approved a contract with the county's approximately 85 union roads, landfill and County Commuter employees.

The commissioners' approval came during a Tuesday night meeting at Williamsport Town Hall.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2677 had voted to ratify the contract on Monday night, said President Denny Embly.

"The main thing that we got was a binding arbitration grievance procedure," Embly said.

Grievances can be filed only about interpretations or applications of the collective bargaining agreement. Such grievances can be appealed to an impartial arbitrator.

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The union also retained a say in safety and health issues, and union members will continue paying union dues under the new contract. Union members will get the same pay raises that nonunion county employees receive and will be subject to discipline and performance evaluations as are other employees.

A hearing scheduled for today on unfair labor practice charges before mediator Ira Jaffe was canceled.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said it was good to have the issue resolved.

"Our main goal was to treat all of the (union and nonunion) employees the same and I think we accomplished that," Snook said.

County Commissioner James R. Wade said he feels that the commissioners' decision to decertify the union last year was correct. He said the state legislature's passage of a law forcing the county to bargain with the union cost the county thousands of dollars in legal fees and didn't help the employees.

Union negotiator George Gisin said the contract protects employees and the union's rights.

"The contract is not as good as we had prior, but it is a contract."

Gisin said the union member's benefits are protected until the contract expires June 30, 2000.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said the time-consuming and costly negotiations could have easily been avoided if the other commissioners hadn't voted to decertify the union.

County labor attorney Frank Kollman's law firm, Kollman & Sheehan of Baltimore, billed the county for nearly $117,000 in legal fees from October 1996 through December 1997, according to county records.

According to the records, $68,465 was attributed to the labor negotiations and the rest to other legal matters.

The union's last contract with the county expired June 30, 1996.

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