Group of WashCo employees waiting for labor arbitrator’s decision

August 30, 2013
Washington County's Courthouse Square office building

Washington County’s largest unions continue to negotiate nearly nine months after their contract expired, but one segment of the workforce has taken its case to a panel of labor arbitrators.

Court-appointed and court-related employees of Service Employees International Union Local 668, who work in the offices of elected officials, are not permitted to strike. Subject to binding arbitration, they took their request for a new contract to a panel of arbitrators Aug. 12.

“We may be in a waiting mode now to see what the arbitrator says because so many of the issues are the same,” said Scott Fergus, Washington County director of administration, who is a member of the collective bargaining team representing Washington County.

Other unions whose pacts expired Dec. 31 include Service Employees International members of Local 668, most of whom work at the Courthouse Square office building; SEIU Healthcare PA at the Washington County Health Center; Pennsylvania Social Services, which includes employees of the Children and Youth Services agency; and probation officers who belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union.

The last time the SEIU contract was up, the county and public employees did not reach an agreement until the end of May 2010, well before budget preparations that take place in the autumn for the following year.

The SEIU held a series of question-and-answer sessions during the past week with its members. Business agent Toni Vallone wrote via email that “we will contact you as soon as we are done.”

Fergus was similarly tight-lipped. “We all agreed we’re not negotiating in the newspaper,” he said. “We continue to negotiate the other contracts.”

Members of the Teamsters Union, which represents Washington County jail guards, whose contract expires Dec. 31 and who, like court-appointed and court-related employee are prohibited from striking, have requested a panel of arbitrators to decide their contract.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to negotiate a contract before the end of the year,” Fergus said, noting that the county has continued to meet with the Teamsters.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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