Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando County, Teamsters struggle to find fair way to lay off employees

BROOKSVILLE — Teamsters and Hernando officials wrestled this week with a thorny question: What's the fairest way to decide who keeps their job when someone must be laid off and the issue of seniority among the impacted employees is unclear?

Go in alphabetical order? Maybe use Social Security numbers or birthdays? How about a coin flip?

All of those options were considered during the contract talks, and the winning strategy is decidedly old school: The officials will pull a name out of a hat, or in this case, a container.

What may appear to be a serendipitous way to determine someone's livelihood emerged during talks this week between the county's administrative services director Cheryl Marsden, other county supervisors and members of the Teamsters Local 79.

Marsden and other county supervisors met this week with officials from Teamsters Local 79, which represents roughly 440 of the county's 660 employees. This is the second negotiated contract for the group, which organized county employees in 2009.

One of the more problematic issues during this period of budget cuts and staff slashing was how to assign seniority to an employee if more than one worker has the same hire date.

Under a plan both teams supported, the first fall-back would be the dates the employees applied for the job. If two people had the same hire date but one applied sooner, that person would be granted seniority.

The negotiators decided they needed another solution if multiple people had applied for the job on the same day. The tiebreaker the teams favor adding to the contract would be to pull a name out of a container.

In an earlier conversation, the teams figured the person whose name was pulled from the hat would be the one laid off. But during Tuesday's session, they agreed that getting your name selected usually comes with a reward. Therefore, the person whose name is chosen would get seniority.

Union officials wanted "something totally random, nothing predetermined,'' Teamster team member Paul Wieczorek said. He noted that if the tiebreaker was to grant seniority based on alphabetical order, "I'd be first every time'' to be laid-off.

The group also considered other possibilities such as using a birth date or a Social Security number — even tossing a coin.

That wouldn't work, the teams noted, if there were more than two people involved. For example, when the county took on the Florida Water utility years ago, numerous employees all started with the county at the same time and they all have the same hire date.

Non-union employees will continue to use the county policy system in place before the union contract was approved two years ago.

"The order of layoff of all employees within a particular status of employment shall be determined by the department director after giving due consideration to all relevant factors which shall include, but not be limited to, seniority and the relative efficiency of the employee (including certifications held, CDL licenses, etc.),'' the policy states.

Bargaining team member Chris Soto asked whether the name pulled from the hat would always have seniority over the others with the same hire date. The teams agreed the designation should be permanent.

The teams agreed to the new tiebreaker and set the issue aside to read it back again and possibly approve it more formally at an upcoming session.

Contract talks continue at 8:30 a.m. today at the Department of Public Works.

Critical talks about monetary items and benefits are not expected until some bargaining meeting after the County Commission conducts a closed executive session on contract strategy at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County, Teamsters struggle to find fair way to lay off employees 08/03/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida education news: Shelter duty, charter schools, teacher pay and more


    ON THE JOB TRAINING: Michael Vasallo learns how to run an evacuation shelter on his 21st day as principal of Dunedin Highland Middle School.

    First year principal Michael Vasallo, right, got called into hurricane shelter duty one month into his job.
  2. Forecast: Sunny skies, warm temperatures to rule across Tampa Bay this week


    After periods of heavy rain in some parts of Tampa Bay over the weekend, the region can expect sunny skies, and warm condition to prevail through the workweek.

    [10Weather WTSP]
  3. PolitiFact Florida: How would Florida fare in Graham-Cassidy health care bill?


    Following a sharp rebuke by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., hit the airwaves to defend his bill that would undo much of the Affordable Care Act.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
  4. Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?


    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer …

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting Zika. Cases of the virus are down dramatically in Florida.
  5. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]