BROOKSVILLE — Cheryl Marsden used the word "delighted'' when asking the Hernando County Commission this week to give final approval to a new contract with the 400 county employees represented by the Teamster Union.
That's because this pact has been a long time coming.
Talks started in April 2011 but bogged down as county administration pushed the idea of furloughs and other cost savings.
Earlier this year, the sides finally came together on a major sticking point — the weight given to seniority in hiring. Teamsters ratified the tentative contract last month. The new contract, which expires Sept. 30, 2014, has no pay raises but it does include money for benefits, including health insurance, that match those received by Spring Hill Fire Rescue workers. Single employees receive $340 worth of benefits per pay period, employees with families $450 in benefits.
A memorandum in the contract also reduces the cap on the hours of unused leave time that can be rolled over from year to year, an issue that was important to the county commissioners.
Also new in the contract is a list of infractions that could cost employees paid time off. The list includes theft, vandalism and the use of guns, explosives, alcohol or drugs in the work place.
The public has been critical of recent large pay-outs to county employees fired for misconduct and commissioners asked for that issue to be addressed.
On the seniority issue, the contract now states that the county will select the most qualified candidate for an open position but, if the candidates are equally qualified, seniority becomes the deciding factor.
Provisions in the new contract formally took effect April 24, the beginning of the last pay period and most will apply to both union and non-union county employees. Commissioners approved the contract by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Wayne Dukes voted against it.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.