Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Commission goes against union in most disputes

DADE CITY — Pasco's rank-and-file county workers brought several labor disputes before county commissioners Tuesday as they try to hammer out their first collective bargaining agreement with county administrators.

The employees didn't get much good news.

Commissioners agreed with the union's position on only one of more than a dozen provisions in dispute. They also rejected giving workers a one-time bonus, citing an eye-popping sticker price.

The commission's decisions on issues ranging from lunch breaks to discipline procedures to the role of seniority in layoff decisions will now be incorporated in a tentative contract. That will receive an up-or-down vote by the roughly 1,000 county employees represented by the Teamsters Local 79 union.

That vote doesn't stand a good chance, according to the handful of union members who attended Tuesday's meeting.

"There's a snowball's chance in hell," predicted Bruce Lee, a facilities department staffer.

"I highly doubt it," added Warren Johnson, a special equipment operator in the utilities department. "They're not giving us anything."

If the contract is voted down, union negotiators and county administrators would go back to the bargaining table to continue working on the contract.

Johnson said Pinellas and Hillsborough recently decided to give their employees a one-time bonus to compensate for going years during the recession without a raise.

"And I know for a fact that Pasco is in better shape," he said.

A lawyer for the union estimated it would cost about $750,000 to give a one-time 3 percent bonus to workers represented by the union.

But County Administrator John Gallagher said he would prefer to include all county workers (including non-unionized managers) and employees who work for elected constitutional officers. A $1,000 bonus for each of those employees could cost up to $4 million.

"Don't vote with your heart, but vote with what fiscal reality is today and what it looks like it may be in the future," Gallagher told commissioners.

The bonus proposal appeared to have some support, especially from Commissioners Pat Mulieri and Henry Wilson.

"I think it's intrinsic in human nature to want to get something when you work, to show that you're needed and you're important," Mulieri said. "I really think we need to do something. It's tough out there."

Commissioner Ann Hildebrand asked: "Where do we come up with those dollars?" (The amount would likely be pulled out of reserves.)

"That's a great question," Wilson replied. "That's the $4 million question."

Commissioners later voted unanimously to continue with a countywide wage freeze. After the hearing, Wilson said he "could not sleep well at night" if the county gave bonuses to one group of workers and not another. "But then you're up to that multi-million-dollar figure," he said.

Several employees were upset that commissioners rejected the idea of allowing workers to appeal a suspension or demotion to an outside arbitrator. They said the existing personnel board doesn't adequately address decisions based on favoritism.

Commissioners also rejected most provisions dealing with seniority, only voting to create a committee to study the issue over the next year. The union argues that layoff decisions based on seniority help protect older, more experienced workers from newly hired employees who might have a cozy relationship with the boss.

The county has adopted a formula that gives some weight to seniority but places much more emphasis on performance evaluations.

Douglas Hecht was laid off after working 23 years in the parks department, and has been rehired in the utilities department. He said he and two other staffers were let go even though they had a combined 70 years of experience.

"They kept people that weren't even off their probation," he said. "They kept people who weren't even there a year. The long-term employees of this county that have given their lives to this county need some kind of security."

Workers narrowly voted to form the union back in August 2010. Now, two years later, the union's contract still isn't approved. James Cherof, an outside lawyer hired by the county, said that delay isn't unusual when crafting an initial agreement with a new union.

"It takes time to get a good contract because it's the foundation for every contract that comes after it," he said.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
The Navy built a ‘fast, agile’ warship for $440M. It’s been stuck in ice since Christmas Eve

The Navy built a ‘fast, agile’ warship for $440M. It’s been stuck in ice since Christmas Eve

The commissioning of the USS Little Rock was held in Buffalo, New York, last month, on a day so cold that people’s breath billowed through the air as they spoke.Partway through the ceremony, snow began falling — sideways — on the thousands of attende...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Jobsite’s ‘The Tempest’ balances reverence and irreverence in a busy Shakespeare tribute

Jobsite’s ‘The Tempest’ balances reverence and irreverence in a busy Shakespeare tribute

TAMPA — The Tempest begins with shadow play, a ship tossed on high seas. Projected onto a backdrop, the shadow of that ship looks proportionate to the waves that rock it. You see this, even as a daemonic spirit holds a toy replica in her hand, the ac...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
These music icons have surprisingly never won a Grammy

These music icons have surprisingly never won a Grammy

By MESFIN FEKADUNEW YORK CITY — It’s a hard pill to swallow, but listen to this: Diana Ross has never won a Grammy. She’s part of a group of iconic musicians who can’t call themselves Grammy winners, including Bob Marley, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys,...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco religion calendar for Jan. 26

Hudson First United Methodist Church, 13123 U.S. 19, will host a quarter auction fundraiser event to benefit local charities from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 3. Vendor tables are available for the event hosted by the church women’s ministry. Tables cost $10. Fo...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

Advocates of Florida prisoners protested outside of the Florida Department of Corrections in Tallahassee on Tuesday, demanding answers to questions of alleged price-gouging in prisons across the state.Protesters from dozens of grass roots organizatio...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Water wars redux: Could Tampa-backed bills doom Tampa Bay Water?

Water wars redux: Could Tampa-backed bills doom Tampa Bay Water?

CLEARWATER — For 20 years, the regional water supply agency known as Tampa Bay Water has provided the state with an example of how local governments can cooperate to provide a vital resource to a large metro region.Now a pair of bills in the Legislat...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police release photos of men sought for questioning in Florida mall blast

Police release photos of men sought for questioning in Florida mall blast

LAKE WALES — Police say two devices ignited inside a mall in central Florida on Sunday do not appear to be an act of terrorism.According to the FBI, bomb technicians examining the contents of a backpack found at Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales on Sund...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater police arrest man in taxi jacking near Crest Lake Park

Clearwater police arrest man in taxi jacking near Crest Lake Park

CLEARWATER — Police officers arrested a 38-year-old man they say robbed a taxi driver at knifepoint Monday morning near Crest Lake Park.According to Clearwater police, Samuel Eric Brown, of Clearwater, stole cash from a driver for United Cab, took th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Solar industry on edge as Trump weighs tariffs on panels

Solar industry on edge as Trump weighs tariffs on panels

Associated PressDALLAS — Some in the U.S. solar-power industry are hoping a decision this week by President Donald Trump doesn’t bring on an eclipse. Companies that install solar-power systems for homeowners and utilities are bracing for Trump’s call...
Updated: 2 hours ago