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Union offers longer contract period

Unionized emergency workers have offered to negotiate a two- or three-year contract with the county, rather than the one-year contract both sides have been at odds over for months.

In a June 9 letter to County Administrator John Gallagher, Teamsters Local 444 president Joe Morgan accuses the county of stalling efforts to resolve the impasse in negotiations. But other than extend the time frame of the contract, Morgan's letter offers no substantive changes from what is already offered.

The county's initial response was skeptical. "What they're asking for is everything they want and then some," said Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson.

Johnson said the county would have been happy to negotiate a longer-term contract but months ago adapted its negotiating strategy and terms to a one-year contract because that is what the union established in its correspondence with the county. Johnson said the county is as eager to resolve the dispute as the union.

Several issues, mostly concerning pay, are disputed. Among other things, the union wants a 3 percent wage increase in addition to the average 5 percent merit increase they and all other county employees are scheduled to receive. An independent state mediator agreed the union should receive that increase, saying Pasco's emergency workers are "grossly underpaid."

County commissioners soon will hold a public hearing on the contract and decide whether to side with the union or with their administrators. That hearing has not been scheduled but is expected to be held in July.

The contract both sides have been haggling over is for 1991-1992, so when that is resolved the union must almost immediately start negotiating another contract to apply to the current year.