Three other contracts also have expired

Last updated: January 12. 2014 11:43PM - 4338 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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Luzerne County Council is expected to vote this month on three new collective bargaining agreements with unionized workers in Children and Youth, Aging and Mental Health.

Contracts with three other unions also expired the end of 2013 with employees at the prison, assistant district attorneys/public defenders and rank-and-file workers in the residual unit.

Council is slated to discuss the proposed contracts with Children and Youth, Aging and Mental Health in a closed-door executive session before Tuesday’s council meeting, though a public vote isn’t expected until later this month.

The roughly 300 employees in the three human service branch unions are represented by Teamsters Local 401.

Union head Pat Connors verified union members have voted on proposed agreements but declined to discuss details about the contract terms before a council vote.

The unions are expected to receive pay raises, though not necessarily every year of their new agreements. The major union concession likely will be acceptance of a switch to one health insurance provider and the addition of a $500 hospital stay deductible and higher copayments.

The three unions contribute 10 percent toward health insurance and may agree to pay higher amounts that keep pace with rising costs as part of the new agreements.

The county’s move toward a 37.5-hour work week for full-time employees is not an issue for the three unions because these workers already meet that standard.

Employees in the three departments currently receive 15 sick days, 12 paid holidays and five personal days annually. Children and Youth and Mental Health workers receive five to 25 vacation days per year depending on their years of employment, while the cap is 27.5 days for Aging.

These workers receive no length-of-service bonus or clothing allowances, and the weekly stipend for on-call duty is $520 for Children and Youth, $435 for Aging and $585 for Mental Health.

Union head Paula Schnelly said negotiations continue with the residual unit, which is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The next negotiating session with the administration is next week.

Prison union representative Tom Borum said negotiations have not reached an impasse, and he expects another negotiating session by the end of the month.

Assistant district attorneys/public defenders are represented by Teamsters, and Connors said he can’t discuss the status because both sides have agreed to maintain confidentiality throughout the negotiation process.

Home rule requires County Council to approve union contracts.

Council rejected a proposed contract with detectives in May 2012, with some members arguing there weren’t enough concessions. The detectives sought binding arbitration and were awarded the same pay and benefits rejected by a council majority.

Workers covered by two of the six expired contracts have the right to binding arbitration — assistant district attorneys/public defenders and prison employees. The other four unions have the right to strike.

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