BROOKSVILLE — After two years of negotiations, Hernando County and Teamsters Local 79, which represents about 400 county workers, have reached a tentative agreement on a contract.
The final sticking point, the weight that should be given to seniority in making hiring decisions, was signed off on Wednesday by Teamsters business agent John Sholtes.
"I'm elated,'' said Cheryl Marsden, Hernando County's director of administrative services.
In his announcement of the tentative agreement, Sholtes said, "Both parties reached an agreement on the contract language regarding filling open positions and promotions, based on the concept that when two candidates for the open position are equally qualified, then county seniority shall prevail when awarding the position.''
He noted that the union "is thankful for the cooperation of the administration, and their willingness to recognize how important seniority (is) among the employees, as it ensures fairness in the workplace and helps to stop favoritism.''
Since the Teamsters negotiating committee voted unanimously to accept the proposal, the union is recommending approval by employees, Sholtes said.
Talks on the pact opened two years ago, and for several months the county's budget challenges brought to the table talk of furloughs, higher health insurance premiums and another year of frozen salaries.
In November 2011, the union rejected the first proposed contract, sending the bargaining teams back to the table.
By April 2012, the teams exhausted the list of items they could agree on and declared an impasse. The sides returned to the table after mediation and agreed to an increase in the amount the county would pay for health insurance premiums. The contract includes no salary increases.
Seniority remained an issue and brought the sides to an impasse again last month. But since that time, a couple of proposals went back and forth before the latest version was accepted.
After the teams comb through the proposal one last time, it will go to the union membership for a vote and, if accepted, to the County Commission to finalize the agreement.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.