By Ed Runyan
Approval this week of a three-year contract covering 65 employees at the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office extends their pay freeze for two more years but guarantees that their 10 percent contribution to health care will remain for three more years.
“It’s certainly not a package we’re thrilled to bring back to the membership, but in this time in history, it’s all we could do,” said Randall Weltman, attorney for the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
The 65 workers are members of four OPBA bargaining units at the sheriff’s office. They are deputies, deputy supervisors, jail supervisors and clerks and secretaries.
The fifth bargaining unit, represented by the United Auto Workers, consists of 64 corrections officers, who came to an agreement several months ago.
The deputies agreed to the contract Tuesday night. About 60 percent were in favor, and it was the third time leadership presented an offer to the membership, Weltman said.
It freezes pay in 2011 and 2012 and provides for a wage reopener in 2013. The deputies already had been under a wage freeze in 2009 and 2010.
Members of the unit have paid a 10 percent contribution to their health-care premium for several years, and the employees’ cost has risen with the increasing cost of health care, Weltman said.
The agreement provides a one-time “longevity” bonus of $58,000 to be split among the 65 members and paid in January 2012.
Like the contract reached recently between the county and workers at the Department of Job and Family Services, it allows the county to conduct random drug testing on workers.
Weltman said the Nov. 8 ballot issue asking Ohio voters whether they want to repeal Senate Bill 5, the collective-bargaining law passed by the Legislature earlier this year, had an effect on negotiations.
He said SB 5 was “one of the motivations to get this done now,” but the revenue cuts counties across Ohio received in this summer’s state budget were an even more important factor.
“We think they [the sheriff’s office] are at a level where they can no longer reduce the number of staff and still provide services,” Weltman said.
Weltman said being under contract guarantees that the workers won’t be forced to contribute 15 percent of their health-care costs in the event that SB 5 is approved by voters.
The workers’ last contract expired in December 2008 and was extended in 2009 and 2010.