Late Union Letter May Lead To 27 County Layoffs

November 07, 1991|By Elise Armacost and Paul Shread | Elise Armacost and Paul Shread,Staff writers

Twenty-seven blue-collar county workers might be laid off because their union leaders failed to report the results of a vote on wage concessions to county officials.

Union members say their union, Local 582 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, voted, 304-180, Monday night in favor of a 3 percent wage cut. County Executive Robert R. Neall had given all county unions until noonTuesday to choose between 3 percent wage cuts, five furlough days orlayoffs.

Local 582 President Marvin Redding said there were problems with the vote and asked county officials for an extension so the union could vote again. County officials say they asked for the request in writing and never heard from Redding. The only thing they say they received was a letter to Redding signed by 30 union members protesting thevote.

"We have not received the results of their election, and because of that, and in fairness to other employee unions who did respond by the deadline, we will be proceeding with layoffs," said Neall spokeswoman Louise Hayman.

Redding and other union leaders said yesterday they told Personnel Officer Donald Tynes the union had voted to accept wage concessions, but needed time to resolve problems with the vote.

But Tynes said Redding didn't tell him the results of thevote, nor had the union submitted written notice of the results, as required by Neall. "Marvin hasn't given me anything," Tynes said. "Hekeeps calling me saying, 'I need more time.' "

Tynes said Reddingtold him the vote "was too close to call."

Local 582 Vice President Marty Womble said union bylaws require the union to have another election in the event of a challenge from members, unless the protesters withdraw their objections.

Redding said the union's board of directors has decided that the vote should stand as taken Monday night.

Their decision may have come too late. Three union members, upsetthat the vote wasn't delivered, tried to meet with Neall yesterday to tell him the results of the vote.

Neall refused to meet with them because he said he legally cannot involve himself in union matters.Deputy County Attorney David Plymyer met with the protesters and informed them of Neall's decision.

The union members wrote Neall a letter and left.

Redding said members protested the vote because theroom was overcrowded and they suspected some members may have voted twice and some non-members may also have voted.

But Janet Childs, a public works employee who counted the votes, said the location of the vote -- the Board of Education chambers on Riva Road -- was restricted to union members, officials and ballot-counters. She said 10 ballots were voided because members voted twice or voted for something that wasn't an option.

"Everything was legal," said Childs. "We don't want these people to take something they didn't vote for.

"Theyhad everyone in the room before the voting started. There was not a single extra vote."

Union members deluged Neall's office with calls yesterday protesting their leaders' actions.

Tynes said Neall will reconsider his decision if the union submits a written request forwage concessions. "We would still have to take it into consideration," he said. "If we don't get anything, it's layoffs."

Asked if Neall was punishing union members for the actions of their leaders, Hayman said, "No. I think Bobby's trying very hard to play by the rules. He is not allowed by law to intervene in the matters of the union, although he is very sympathetic to the people who have voiced their discontent."

Neall is seeking wage concessions from all county unionsas part of a $20.8 million budget reduction plan.

Layoff notices probably will go out tomorrow. In addition to blue-collar workers, three detention center officers will lose their jobs. All other unions accepted pay cuts or furlough days.

Next Thursday, Neall will present his revised budget to the County Council. Officials said yesterday he is considering signing a bill the council approved Monday night giving the council unprecedented power to make changes to his budget.Without the bill, he cannot reopen the budget process.

County attorneys have said the bill is legal unless the council adds money to Neall's budget or otherwise violates the County Charter.

County Attorney Jud Garrett is expected to give Neall his opinion of the bill today.

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