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Hernando commission approves proposed contract with employees

Published Dec. 18, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission this week gave its okay to a tentative three-year contract hammered out for county employees, a contract that includes an entirely new pay plan.

The county's roughly 430 bargaining unit members with Teamsters Local 79 will vote on the pact at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 5 in the jury assembly room at the Hernando County Government Center.

Teamsters business agent John Sholtes is enthusiastically supportive of the proposed contract.

"I'm no salesman, but this is the best damn union contract Hernando County has ever had,'' Sholtes said. "Any worker would be a fool to turn it down.''

He thanked the county's negotiating team for working so cooperatively.

The key feature of the contract, which would be retroactive to Oct. 1 if approved by the employees, is the adoption for the first time of what is known as a step plan. It is a grid of salaries for each pay grade and for each year an employee successfully moves to the next level. Each step bring a pay increase of approximately 3 percent. The job of creating such a plan was complex because the county just completed a salary study done by Evergreen Solutions.

The union agreed to the company's reclassifications, and the county slotted each employee into the correct place on the salary grid, based on job description, experience and education.

When positions were reclassified, many workers fell between different steps on the grid. To place them properly, employees who got less than a 3 percent pay raise from the reclassification will be moved to the next higher step on the schedule. For those who received more than a 3 percent raise, they would keep the higher amount but be placed on the lower step.

Employees with acceptable evaluations each year would move to the next step on the schedule. An acceptable evaluation would be a score of 3 points out of 5 or higher. Those with scores of 1 or 2 could file a grievance over the evaluation.

In future years, the pay scale will be adjusted to meet any rise in the Consumer Price Index. If the index falls, there would be no deduction from the scale. If another major economic downturn were to occur, the parties would meet to discuss whether to suspend the step plan.

For the first time, employees will know what their pay will be for the duration of the contract, Sholtes said.

"They will also be able to determine what their rate of pay will be if they receive a promotion into a higher pay grade,'' he said. "There will be no more mystery regarding where an employee falls within a pay range associated with their job classification.''

Another key feature, Sholtes said, is that "it will also eliminate any favoritism from management regarding raises. It ensures that employees are treated fairly by receiving regularly scheduled increases in exchange for their hard work and service to the county.''

In addition, the agreement strengthens seniority rights, improves opportunities for upward mobility through training and gives employees more of a choice to receive overtime pay or bank overtime hours.