Saturday, March 9 2013, 08:58 PM CST
Sheriff employees not thrilled with arbitration ruling
By Caitlin Conrad/KTVL.com MEDFORD, ORE -- Jackson County Sheriff's employees found out Friday the arbitrator has ruled in favor of the county. Union representatives say it's a big loss for the Sheriff's Department but commissioners say they're delighted with the outcome.
"We feel very good," said Jackson County Commissioner Don Skundrick. He says the arbitrators ruling means the Sheriff's Office probably won't be seeing any layoffs. "We'll be able to recind most if not all of those 67, rather, 66 layoff notices," Skundrick said.
The county was arguing with employees over contracts for fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013 and the biggest sticking point was raises. The association's deal included raises ranging from zero to four percent. The sheriff's office's offer keeps salaries level for 2011 and 2012, and includes a raise up to two percent in 2013. The Commissioner says the decision will save the county money it didn't have. "If the county had lost the arbitration we would have had to pay a huge amount in retroactive pay which we did not have in the budget," Skundrick said.
The decision came as a blow to the union despite the lack of layoffs. Jackson County Sheriff's Employee Association representative Ben Fazio says starting in October members will also start seeing a $350 dollar cut in their pay due to the cost of benefits. He says "the county got a huge victory over us," and adds that so far none of those 66 layoffs have been recinded, "we don't even know our shift schedules for this week," he explained.
Skundrick sees it as a win for the public, "we're thrilled to death that those employees will still be employees if they choose to stay," he said. However, Fazio says there are employees who already have plans to quit because they can't afford the new deal.
JCSEA is still trying to figure out what's next, it says the way the arbitration was handled undermined the association. When the county first announced layoffs at the end of February, County Administrator Danny Jordan said no matter the outcome of the arbitration there would be layoffs. Saying the 66 were notified in preparation of the county going a different way. But Fazio says the layoff notices were handed out in an attempt to bust the union. He also claims the county even threatened the arbitrator with legal action if they did not choose the county's pla, that's something commissioners deny.
"Let's deal with reality," Skundrick said when asked about the claim.
Association leaders are meeting Wednesday to go over the new deal and its options. The current negotiation just covers until the end of June, in July employees will head back to the negotiation table once again, and Fazio says he expects to see cuts once again.