Union leaders vow to seek federal mediation on contract dispute

May 04, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The County Council approved a bill that will give most of the county's union employees a 2 percent pay raise in exchange for accepting a new managed-care health system. But the unions are not exactly bursting with thanks.

They're angry that they were forced to accept a health care system that leaves them with fewer choices of doctors and dentists. They're unhappy that vision and dental care were included in negotiations, which they say they never agreed to and which violates their contracts.

And they're really steamed about losing out on almost four months of extra pay.

The union that represents the county's blue-collar workers -- Local 582 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- settled with the county early this year, and received a 2 percent raise retroactive to Dec. 30. But the other six unions that took their cases to an impasse hearing only get their raises starting April 21.

Union leaders said they will seek arbitration for contract violations through a federal mediator and an injunction in federal court that would prevent the contract provisions in the bill from taking effect.

"We'll seek concurrence of the courts to hold our contracts true," Dennis Howell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, which represents the county's patrol officers, told council members before they voted Monday.

They found a sympathetic ear in Councilman George F. Bachman, a 1st District Democrat, who tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to make the raises retroactive to Dec. 30.

"What I'm trying to do with this particular amendment is to stop these lawsuits, because I believe it's going to cost the county money," Mr. Bachman said.

County officials have maintained that the money for the pay raises comes from savings gained from the new health care system. By not signing on earlier, the county used that money to pay for the unions' health care plans.

In other County Council action:

* Two bills that would have revoked enhanced pension benefits granted to appointed and elected officials were killed. One was withdrawn at the request of its sponsors, Maureen Lamb, 6th District Democrat, and David G. Boschert, 4th District Democrat. The other, sponsored by Diane Evans, 5th District Republican, was defeated by a 1-6 vote, with Ms. Evans casting the only supporting vote.

The county's law office thought that provisions in both bills were unconstitutional, and the Pension Oversight Commission recommended that they be defeated.

* The council approved a bill that defines an adult bookstore as any business that devotes at least 20 percent of its floor space or 20 percent of its stock to pornographic materials. The county code already limits such establishments to certain areas, away from churches, schools and homes.

* A bill regulating the disposal of fly ash, which is a byproduct of the power plants at Brandon Shores and Wagner's Point, was withdrawn by its sponsor, Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, a 3rd District Republican.

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