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02-26-03: Auglaize County Commissioners County rejects union pact report
The Daily Standard
    WAPAKONETA - Auglaize County Commissioners have rejected a state fact-finder's report that attempted to resolve ongoing negotiations with union employees at the county sheriff's office.
    Lawyers for the two sides were to meet today to decide how to proceed. If the parties cannot come to an agreement soon, they could submit to binding arbitration by the state to resolve the issue.
    The county and Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association have been negotiating for months on a new contract to replace an expired three-year deal. Despite the expired labor agreement, the 23 law enforcement workers are prohibited by law from striking.
    The fact-finding report, dated Feb. 13, seemed to heavily favor the union on most of the eight issues still being negotiated. Commissioner John Bergman, citing the secrecy of negotiations, declined to say exactly why county officials rejected the report.
    Union attorney Joe Hegedus could not be reach for comment. The bargaining unit includes six dispatchers, 13 deputies and four sergeants.
    Fact-finder Dale A. Zimmer recommended a two-year contract with raises of 3 percent and 3.5 percent each year for all job classifications in the union. Zimmer also recommended changes to the health insurance coverage to make it the same as other county workers and suggested minor changes to the department's compensatory time program.
    The fact-finder also ruled in favor of the union on some sick leave and vacation pay issues.
    The only place the county prevailed through the fact-finding process was on additional pay for dispatchers. The union had sought raises of 58 cents and 70 cents during the two-year contract in addition to the percentage increases. The justification for the additional pay hikes was to put the dispatchers' pay on an even keel with their counterparts in the area.
    The county had offered a one-time 15-cent adjustment, which the fact-finder accepted, ruling that there is not enough evidence to show the dispatchers are underpaid.
    The report also shows the two sides already had successfully negotiated several issues, including holiday pay, officer-in-charge pay increases, shoe allowances and some other minor contract issues.
    Commissioners contracted the State Employee Relations Board on Tuesday to let the office know the report would be rejected. The sides are expected to resume negotiations rather than agree to binding arbitration by the state.
    Bergman said despite the remaining differences, he expects the contract issue to be resolved fairly soon.


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