2011-04-07 / Front Page

County, Union Talks To Get Under Way

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

With the Fulton County commissioners and their business manager recently responding to allegations that they frivolously expended taxpayer money on employee contract bargaining, Teamsters Local #992 has chosen to go public on the matter while gearing up to begin the newest round of negotiations on behalf of seven county employees.

In a press release dated March 30, Principal Executive Officer Tom Krause of the Hagerstown, Md.-based Teamsters group, stated that in spite of the “opposition by the county commissioners,” the seven probation and domestic relations officers eventually won a new contract that improves on community safety. Safety was achieved, according to Krause, through several key points in the contract that include the creation of incentives to keep experienced probation officers in county as well as bonuses for bilingual officers who are able to help the county deal with its new demographics and residents.

“Those are protections that the county commissioners opposed,” said county Probation Officer Darron Butts in the Teamsters’ news release.

“We aren’t just standing up for ourselves. We are making sure that Fulton County keeps the experienced probation officers that our community needs to be safe,” he stated.

Following up on Butts’ statement, retired Probation Department officer George Cutchall added, “Our commissioners need to be using our money to help protect our safety, but they keep getting it wrong. They shouldn’t be fighting the people who protect our community. They should be working with them.”

Unionization occurred in September 2005 shortly after a variety of issues ranging from pay raises to safety and equipment precautions came to light. The contract was ratified in December 2009 but not until after the county spent approximately $103,343 in specialized legal services to negotiate the contract that began January 1, 2007, and concluded December 31, 2010.

Justifying their spending, the commissioners, through business manager Tim Stanton, released a document three weeks ago outlining “net realized cost savings.” As of the conclusion of the contract, those net savings were calculated at $724,577. Stanton’s documentation further outlined “future estimated cost savings over a five-year period” in the amount of $333,424.

After subtracting expended legal fees from the net realized cost savings as of December 31 as well as future estimated costs, Stanton concluded specialized counsel used in negotiations saved the county a total of $954,658.

Among the highlights of the contract are collectively as a group, the employees are slated to receive an estimated $42,000 in back pay to compensate them for negotiated raises. Union employees are also slated to receive a “lump sum bonus” when they reach 10 and 20 years of service as well as comp time or pay rate of time and one-half the regular rate when they complete work on Saturday and Sunday. Provisions are also in place at this time to compensate employees who are on call during a holiday or are called out for incidents.

Furthermore, the contract touched on the topic of health and safety, allowing for a variety of equipment to be provided to the employees for their protection, such as bullet-resistant vests, gloves, spit bags, handcuffs, duty belt, baton holder and firearm cleaning gear in bulk. The county is also now responsible for providing firearms training, ammunition for training, ammunition for duty and other necessary items without cost to the employees.

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