Sheriff's deputies hope to form union to bargain with county

December 03, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Seeking to forge an independent identity, Baltimore County's 53 sheriff's deputies are seeking the right to represent themselves in labor negotiations with the Ruppersberger administration.

If the County Council approves, their Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25 -- a professional organization -- would become the smallest of the county's six labor groups. The deputies are represented by the much larger Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, which represents 1,700 county workers.

"A smaller, more-focused group might serve our interests better," says Lodge President Sgt. Michael J. Corrigan, 43, a 15-year county deputy.

Because all the county's labor groups approved two-year pacts last spring, including a 3 percent pay raise in July, the new group would have an extra year to organize before facing negotiations in 1999.

The deputies, who provide courthouse security, serve court papers and transport prisoners, want to be seen as law enforcement officers in labor negotiations with county government, something that has eluded them.

"Their new driving force is to get a 20-year retirement and get equal with the police," said James Clark, president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees.

Corrigan would not be more specific, but others say the deputies have chafed over lower pay and fewer retirement benefits than county police officers get.

A starting deputy earns $23,741 compared with $25,880 for a starting police officer, though both go through the same training. After four years, the gap widens to $28,604 for a deputy, compared with $32,352 for a police officer.

In addition, police officers may retire at half pay after 20 years, while deputies must wait until 30 years to retire with 55 percent of their pay. A police officer who stays 30 years would retire with a 70 percent pension.

"We're losing people continuously to other agencies," said Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr. "I train them, and I lose them."

The move has engendered no opposition from Pepersack or from the administration of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

"We're actually helping sponsor" the move, said Michael H. Davis, Ruppersberger's spokesman. In past negotiations, "the sheriff's deputies have always been very reasonable," he said.

The push also has drawn no opposition from Clark, president of the public employees union.

"I don't want to see them leave the unit, but I'm not in a position to fight them," Clark said, referring to a promise made to the deputies when the AFL-CIO union won representation rights for 1,700 white-collar county employees four years ago.

A bill creating the new unit is due for council introduction this month.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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