BROOKSVILLE — The Teamsters union has put Hernando County on notice this week to "cease and desist" from the practice of reclassifying some county jobs.
The union, which represents approximately 400 county workers, said the practice is allowing management to circumvent the employees' contract with the county and give altered jobs with higher salaries to chosen employees.
A union official argues that the Teamsters have a right to be involved in all discussions about pay and benefits. In fact, the union is reopening the wage and benefit portions of the contract this week in a meeting with the county administration.
"It's obviously been a very long time since the bargaining unit members have received wage increases,'' wrote Teamsters business agent John Sholtes. "We cannot allow management personnel to simply submit reclassification requests at will and give certain employees raises without bargaining with the union over those increases.''
In his letter to Russ Wetherington, assistant county administrator for general services, Sholtes said that allowing the county to do the reclassifications "would circumvent the union's role as the exclusive bargaining representative for the purpose of negotiating wages, benefits and other conditions of employment for the bargaining unit employees.''
If some employees perform work beyond their existing job descriptions, Sholtes wrote, the county should use the union contract provision that allows for "step-up" pay.
If the county doesn't comply, he says the Teamsters will either file a blanket grievance or level an unfair labor practice charge against the county with the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission.
Cheryl Marsden, the county's administrative services director, said that no violation of the contract has occurred.
"As far as I'm concerned, reclassification is management's right. We have a policy,'' Marsden said.
She noted that the Teamsters attempted to get a provision in the last contract that would have required the posting of all reclassified positions, but were unsuccessful. Open positions must be posted, and Marsden said the county does that.
The Teamsters' concerns were spurred by a recent memo from Marsden to county managers, urging them to get all requests for reclassifications to Human Resources during the budgeting process for 2013-14.
As county government has shrunk in size, Marsden noted, many employees have had to take on additional duties. In about eight of those cases, reclassifications have been requested. The added responsibilities then became permanent, with higher pay.
Step-up pay is for employees who temporarily take on added tasks at a higher pay level, Marsden said.
Teamsters negotiating team member Dan Oliver said the county needs to understand how the reclassifications look to employees.
"If they're reclassifying a job, then they need to readvertise the thing. It's a different job,'' Oliver said.
He noted that the practice has contributed to the distrust employees have of county administration.
"Again, they're choosing and picking who they are going to give a raise to, and this has got to stop,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.