Avoiding the rancor that doomed last year's contract talks, the county and a labor union said yesterday that they have agreed tentatively to a new contract covering more than 800 blue-collar employees.
Union members, who include public works and maintenance employees, will vote on the proposal Feb. 28.
In June, members overwhelmingly rejected a tentative, three-year agreement in a vote that the union's president attributed to acrimonious negotiations with the county.
Details of the new proposal will not be made public until the middle of this month at the earliest, giving officials of Local 582 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees time to inform its 817 members, said county spokesman John A. Morris.
Announcement of the agreement comes two weeks after the county said most nonunion employees had gotten a belated Christmas gift in their paychecks -"pay-for-performance" awards worth a collective $938,000 during the balance of the fiscal year ending June 30.
Of 871 employees not represented by unions, 672 received a financial thank-you of some sort. Some were as low as $27, and several exceeded $7,000.
The merit awards were presented as one-time bonuses or as raises of up to 10 percent. The average salary increase was 4.7 percent, or $2,064. The average one-time award was $1,700.
The awards were in addition to the 2 percent across-the-board pay raises that nonunion employees received in July.
Last year, County Executive Janet S. Owens hammered out deals with several other unions that represent county employees.
She made a point of stressing the need to lift the pay of public safety employees, and it showed. Police officers are receiving 15 percent more this year because of a 7 percent wage increase and other enhancements. Firefighters won a deal that will increase their wages by 19 percent over three years.
Members of Local 582, angry at what they felt was a paltry offer, turned down their proposed contract by a 154-100 vote in June. The deal would have raised wages by 2 percent a year for three years, plus some additional enhancements.
That vote capped an emotional season of labor talks and left the union as the only one in county government without a new contract, although its members were given 2 percent raises during summer.