Pike County contract talks headed to mediation, possible arbitration

Posted: Jan. 29, 2013 8:55 am Updated: Feb. 12, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- The Pike County Board is heading to mediation in contract talks with courthouse employees, could be heading to arbitration with ambulance employees and continues to talk with the union representing Sheriff's Department employees.

A mediation session is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5 with the Operating Engineers Local 965, which represents courthouse and government building employees. The stumbling block has been the amount for a pay increase.

The previous board authorized the Labor Committee to offer up to 8.2 percent over three years -- or an offer of $600 per employee in the first year, $650 in the second year and $750 in the third year. The union came down twice in its demands, but stood at $1,200 per year, or 13.3 percent over the three years, board members said in November.

The current board that was seated Dec. 3 and its new Labor Committee continued talks without reaching agreement. The contract covers 20 employees in the county clerk, supervisor of assessments, state's attorney and circuit clerk offices.

Board members and ambulance service employees averted going to arbitration over a contract dispute in December and agreed to reopen negotiations, but those talks have reached "a standstill," Board Chairman Andy Borrowman said.

The contract, ratified last April, provided raises for ambulance workers retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011. Since then, 2 percent annual raises were slated for both 2012 and 2013, but the union and the County Board haven't seen eye-to-eye on how much those raises should cost the county.

The county calculated the cost of the raises at $414,239.08 in 2012 and $422,389.86 in 2013, while the union calculated it at $507,343.70 and $526,572.26. The board in November said the union's calculated cost is enough to put the ambulance service in the red every month and could force cuts.

If no agreement can be reached, an arbitrator will listen to both sides, then pick the numbers supplied by one -- a binding choice with no appeal process.

Meanwhile, negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police representing Sheriff's Department are "moving forward," Borrowman said.