Trumbull vote on 3% annual raises Wednesday

WARREN — Trumbull County commissioners are expected to approve three-year contracts for three unions representing about 200 county workers Wednesday.

The pacts contain pay increases of 3 percent each year. The deals will cost the county about $590,000 total.

There remains, however, one major question about contracts that will affect the commissioners’ decision-making on the 2007 budget: an arbiter’s ruling on the pay increase for 120 sheriff’s department workers.

“We have to have the final numbers before we can complete the budget,” Commissioner Paul Heltzel said after a work session today.

Three unions, representing about 200 workers in the Child Support Enforcement Agency, clerk of courts office, treasurer’s office, building inspection, sanitary engineer’s, vehicle and building maintenance and commissioners office, and recorder’s office approved the county’s contract offer last week.

The three bargaining units are part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Their contracts are effective August 2006, but pay increases are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007, said James Keating, the county’s human resources director.

The workers’ last contract expired in mid-2005.

Diane Namish, president of Local 2493, the largest of the three AFCSME locals, said the biggest complaint workers had was the increase in the health-care contribution, which changed from a flat — or capped — amount of $40 per month for individuals and $80 for families, to 10 percent of the total.

Namish said the change increases every employee’s cost and allows the employee contribution to rise at the same rate as inflation. Sixty-three percent of the 109 Local 2493 workers approved the deal.

“We gave a little and we got some,” Namish said.

The contract also adds an emergency room co-pay of $75 per visit and increases the cost of prescriptions from $5, $15 and $30 to $10, $25 and $50 after the first $2,000 and increases mail-order prescriptions by a similar amount.

County officials expect to hear soon from an arbiter who handled a contract dispute between the county and the union workers in the sheriff’s department.

The arbiter could select from the 3 percent-per-year pay increase offered by the county or from the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s last offer of pay increases of 4 percent, 4.25 percent and 4 percent retroactive to October 2005. That union’s last contract expired in September 2004.

Keating said the OPBA union’s offer would cost the county $618,000 more over three years. He didn’t know how much more the county’s offer would cost.

Heltzel and other county officials say they are somewhat pessimistic about the chances that the arbiter would choose the county’s offer because a fact finder had sided with the union’s position on the pay increases.

Heltzel said the county’s legal counsel for negotiations has advised him that fact finders and arbiters often grant larger raises to law enforcement unions because they are not allowed to strike.

The county has another union left to negotiate with starting in March, AFSCME Local 458, representing about 165 to 170 workers in the Department of Job and Family Services. Local 458’s contract does not expire until this summer.

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