NEW PORT RICHEY — The union for more than half of Pasco County's workers says it has reached a tentative contract deal after a final round of talks Tuesday with Pasco's personnel director and a county attorney.
The one-year employment contract comes after more than three years of talks between Pasco and Teamsters Local 79, which started representing 1,100 county workers in 2010.
"It's been a long time in coming for the members," Teamsters business agent and lead negotiator John Sholtes said. "It's a shame it's taken this long."
Sholtes signed the deal and sent it to the county attorney's office for approval Thursday.
He said ballots will be mailed out to union members and then tallied at an April 10 meeting. If the members back the contract, it will go to Pasco commissioners for a vote possibly in late April or May.
"I look forward to the ratification vote," Barbara De Simone, Pasco's personnel director, said in an email.
The sides have a tangled history, with more than 50 disputed items at the start of negotiations more than three years ago.
After an impasse in 2011, a special magistrate sided with the union, but commissioners rejected the magistrate's findings and forced the sides back to the bargaining table.
They again went before a magistrate in late January after another impasse. Two issues — overtime pay and discipline rules — blocked the agreement but only one remained by the time of the magistrate's hearing: overtime pay.
The county wanted tougher overtime rules for weeks with holidays or when workers go to funeral or take a day or two of vacation. It wanted that leave time to not count toward the 40-hour threshold when calculating overtime.
But the union's position was if a holiday or vacation day occurs during the work week, a worker shouldn't have to work 40 hours, or four 10-hour days, the rest of the week to qualify for overtime. The union's position prevailed.
This last issue was ironed out this week, Sholtes said, adding the sides could soon be in talks again, despite the agreement.
"It's only good for a year, so I'm sure we'll be back at in a few months," he said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.