County officials, blue-collar workers remain at odds on labor agreement

Union plans to rally Monday with firefighters

April 12, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Consensus continues to elude negotiators for Anne Arundel County and the union representing 860 blue-collar county employees. Union representatives rejected Monday the county's latest offer: raises totaling 6 percent over three years.

"Our members would not have been able to support that," said Scott Harmon, president of Local 582 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The union asked for a 3 percent raise next year, with items such as the restoration of longevity pay to pre-1995 levels.

The union's counteroffer would have amounted to about 8 percent next year, said personnel officer Randall Schultz, who called the request "unquestionably" too high.

The blue-collar union is one of six locals seeking new county contracts. Police officers have agreed to a deal with raises totaling 17 percent over three years. County employees are not allowed to strike.

Harmon said his members plan to rally with county firefighters before the County Council meeting Monday. Firefighters staged a similar rally last week and heard supportive comments from most council members. Their union has rejected raises of 13 percent over three years, plus pension enhancements.

The council can make wage recommendations to County Executive Janet S. Owens, but she makes the final decision.

Hoping to further pressure the county, Anne Arundel County Professional Firefighters Union has told its lawyers to sue the county for not supplying the union with financial documents requested in January.

In a letter dated yesterday, Schultz wrote that a union lawyer told him in January that "the letter was sent to posture for negotiations."

The firefighters union president, Jim Edwards, has said the union might hold a job fair for surrounding counties that pay higher firefighter salaries. Anne Arundel has lost nine firefighters since Jan. 1, Edwards said.

"They definitely are not using the sweet touch," Owens said yesterday.

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