By DENISE GRANT
Talks between Hancock County and the union representing sheriff’s deputies are at a standstill.
About 35 members of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association have been working without a contract since March 8, according to a fact-finding report released by the State Employment Relations Board on July 2. The Courier received the report Monday.
Negotiators sought an opinion from the employment relations board in June after talks reached an impasse.
The two sides can’t agree on pay raises or health insurance premiums. A state fact-finder advised negotiators to compromise on both issues, but the union rejected that recommendation in a vote June 30.
Sheriff Michael Heldman said binding arbitration is now being sought.
The union is seeking a 4 percent raise in each year of a three-year contract, according to the report. The county is offering a 1.75 percent raise in each year of the contract. The fact-finder recommended raises of 2.25 percent this year, 2.5 percent in 2015 and 2.75 percent in 2016.
The fact-finder also recommended that the employee share of health insurance premiums be increased 1 percent in each of the next three years until the contribution reaches 20 percent. The union is arguing against any increase in its members’ share of the premium, while sheriff’s office officials contend that 20 percent is reasonable.
Union representatives also argue that a 4 percent pay raise is needed to offset higher insurance premiums. However, sheriff’s office administrators say the county’s proposed pay raises would result in a significant gain in union members’ income, and argue that they are already well paid when compared with their counterparts in similar counties.
According to the union, non-union county employees received raises of 3 percent in 2011, 2.5 percent in 2012 and 2.8 percent in 2013, while bargaining unit employees received less: raises of 2 percent in 2011, 2.2 percent in 2012 and 2.8 percent in 2013.
Negotiators have agreed to some changes.
Longevity pay, an additional 0.5 percent per year of service, will be extended from a top end of 23 years to 30 years.
Labor Day has been added to the six existing holidays when sheriff’s office employees are paid time-and-a-half for hours worked.
The new contract will also include language that allows for the firing of a sheriff’s office employee who is convicted, pleads guilty or otherwise admits guilt regarding “the possession, use, distribution, or manufacture of illegal drugs.”
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