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Pierce County deputies get raises of 2.5 percent for 2010 and 2011

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on Jan. 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
January 31, 2011 8:26 pm

Pierce County’s sheriff’s deputies are getting raises of 2.5 percent for 2010 and 2.5 percent for 2011 under a contract set to be ratified by the County Council next week.

The council’s vote, however, is symbolic.

It’s been agreed to by the county’s negotiators. And the Pierce County Deputy Sheriff’s Independent Guild Local No. 1889 ratified the two-year pact at the end of last month, president Cynthia Fajardo said Monday.

The union represents 294 members of the Sheriff’s Department.

The contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, and running through Dec. 31 of this year, specifies a 2.5 percent raise on Jan. 1, 2010. The 2011 raise is based on a cost-of-living formula that guarantees raises of “not less than 2.5 percent nor greater than 5.5 percent.”

The area Consumer Price Index dropped by half a percent between June 2009 and July 2010.

Though the main contract is settled, the deputies’ contribution to their health insurance premiums is not,  and the two parties are in a binding arbitration proceeding over the matter, Deputy County Executive Kevin Phelps said this afternoon.

The county wants the union’s members to pay about $67 a month for medical, dental and vision coverage, Phelps said. The union disagrees.

“We’re disappointed” by that, he added, noting the deputies’ union is asking that its members pay much less.

County workers began paying a part of their individual health-care premiums for the first time in 2010. Prior to that, they paid a portion of the cost only for family members on their plans.

Last summer, County Executive Pat McCarthy asked the county’s unions with existing contracts to forgo scheduled 2.5 percent raises for 2011, citing falling revenues brought about by the recession.

But McCarthy and her executive team “put the brakes on that” when it became clear the issue couldn’t be resolved before the 2011 budgeting was done.

Nearly all county employees received raises of at least 2.5 percent Jan. 1.

The county’s largest union, which represents corrections officers, remains in negotiations to replace a pact that expired Dec. 31.

Collective bargaining agreements cover about 1,700 of the county’s 3,000 workers. When it was clear union workers would get raises in 2011, the county allocated money in the budget for nonunion workers’ raises, too.

McCarthy has said it wouldn’t be fair or prudent to freeze nonunion workers’ pay while their colleagues got raises.

She and her executive team are working to change the overall approach to bargaining and the way raises are determined, she told The News Tribune in a previous interview.

Many of the county’s labor contracts have carried language guaranteeing a minimum 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise, regardless of inflation. The same verbiage restricted inflationary hikes to 5.5 percent.

“We’re in discussions with all of our bargaining units” to try and remove the cost-of-living floor in 2012″”  Phelps said.

The new deputies’ contract dictates hourly wage ranges of $27.23 to $36.02 for deputies; $38.53 to $39.70 for detectives; $41.25 to $43.33 for sergeants; and $47.10 to $49.56 for lieutenants. There also are ranges for some other classifications.

The deputies’ guild will go into negotiations sometime this spring for a successor contract to the one just ratified, Fajardo said.

The county’s law enforcement contract talks are subject to interest arbitration, which means a  third party can look at the issues and decide on binding terms if the parties can’t agree

The  union looks to comparable wages in other agencies during bargaining, Fajardo said.

As to the recently concluded negotiations,  she said, “We’re happy with the contract.”

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