Mediator agrees with union's pay-raise proposal
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Now that an arbitrator has resolved the issue of how much employees in the Trumbull County sheriff's department and jail will earn, a new question is on the horizon: Will layoffs be necessary to pay for the wage increases?
Mediator Harry Graham of Solon sent a ruling to the county and union Friday indicating that he has agreed with the 3.25 percent, 3.5 percent and 3.75 percent pay raises to the 98 employees retroactive to October 2005 the union offered to the county late last month.
Graham ruled the workers would be assigned the hospitalization and insurance changes that were negotiated with other county workers in recent months that involve a flat 10 percent share of health-care costs and higher co-pays for prescriptions and emergency room visits.
His ruling said two issues will remain on the negotiating table for up to 60 days regarding work schedules, layoff and recall.
Detective Sgt. Peter Pizzulo, a representative of the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents the employees, said he hopes county officials will honor the agreement by keeping all current employees on the payroll instead of making layoffs.
Sheriff Thomas Altiere said recently that if "outlandish" raises were approved by the arbitrator, layoffs were likely in the road patrol division, which handles the county's northern section.
At the time, Altiere was referring to the union's request for raises of about 4 percent per year. The county had been offering raises of about 3 percent.
Nearly a month after a mediation hearing was held Jan. 3, however, both parties made new salary offers, with the county's offering rising above 3 percent and the union's offer dropping below 4 percent.
Ernie Cook, Altiere's chief deputy, said Friday afternoon he had not seen the ruling but heard that several issues were still unresolved, so it would be difficult to estimate what effect the contract would have on layoffs.
"We feel it's a reasonable amount," Pizzulo said, adding he hoped the commissioners would provide the funding.
The workers' new contract would be in effect from Oct. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2008, with the 3.25 percent effective October 2005 through October 2006; the 3.5 percent from October 2006 through October 2007; and the 3.75 percent effective October 2007 through Dec. 31, 2008.
James Keating, the county's personnel director, said the pay increases will cost the county an additional 709,843 over the life of the contract.
Altiere said recently the 10.8 million budget request he gave commissioners in December assumed raises of about 3 percent per year and was constructed to maintain current services.
Altiere said he doesn't know how much money the commissioners are likely to give him in 2007, but if they pare his 10.8 million budget request back or if raises in the 4 percent range are granted, he would have to make layoffs.
The department's budget of 8.5 million in 2006 allowed the department to increase road patrols from nine to 13 in July and to increase deputies guarding the county courthouse from three to five in November.
But increasing costs associated with gasoline, health care, other employee benefits and a loss in federal court regarding the hiring of female jailers was pushing costs upward, Altiere said.