County workers accept contract

3-year pact offering at least 2 percent raise tentatively OK'd

Effective July 1

June 02, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The last Anne Arundel County union without a new contract tentatively accepted a three-year deal late yesterday that is similar to the package the workers had been offered before negotiations reached an impasse with the county.

AFSCME Local 582, which represents 1,000 county workers from 911 dispatchers to road crew members, tentatively accepted a contract beginning July 1 that will provide raises of 2 percent to 4.9 percent for employees -- not substantially different from raises the county had offered.

If ratified June 21, the contract will provide a minimum of 2 percent salary increases each of the three years, officials said, but could translate into 5 percent or more a year for employees affected by pay-scale restructuring in the first and second years of the contract.

The pay structure will be compressed from the current 25-year scale to a 20-year scale next year and a 16-year scale the next year, said county personnel director Randy Schultz.

"Basically, they'll be making more money quicker," he said.

The restructuring restores a 5 percent longevity increase that workers lost several years ago, said Scott Harmon, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The biggest concession from the county was a promise that County Executive Janet S. Owens will introduce and support county legislation allowing retirement for AFSCME workers after 30 years, regardless of the employee's age, Harmon said.

The contract includes several pension improvements, such as payment for accrued sick leave, he said.

The county also agreed to adjust the hourly wage of about 28 employees who had been working a 35-hour week in 1996 and began working 40 hours without being paid for the extra hours, Harmon said.

In return, AFSCME officials agreed to accept training wages for certain new employees, Schultz said.

County officials had rejected the recommendations of an independent fact finder who said the county should give AFSCME employees at least a 4 percent across-the-board raise next year.

When the County Council recommended a 3 percent salary increase as a compromise after last week's impasse hearing, Owens also rejected that, which upset some County Council members who said she had told them she would consider the 3 percent raise.

"A lot of these things should have been settled," said Harmon. "I don't know why it took all this long. But I'm personally relieved it's coming to an end."

Harmon said he was uncertain why the county administration hadn't agreed to negotiate again after the fact-finding report or why Owens rejected the council's recommendation, causing a further divide between her and the members.

But he speculated that the deal was a way to reduce some of that tension. And, Harmon said, "I think some of the state legislators encouraged the administration to make this happen."

Owens was not available for comment yesterday, according to her spokesman. But she said in a prepared statement, "I am proud that the Local 582 and the county were able to keep our lines of communication open. I am equally pleased that we are ushering in a new era of labor stability."

All but one union have at least a tentative three-year contract. County correctional officers accepted a one-year contract with the county.

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