Sandra K Reabuck
Cambria County’s three commissioners met behind closed doors for about 45 minutes on Monday with representatives of a half-dozen labor unions that represent 450 county employees, reportedly to discuss fiscal concerns.
Both President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder and Jon Hitchings, business manager of Local 668 of Service Employees International Union, were close-mouthed about the talks and refused to say whether concessions are being sought.
“We laid out some issues for the unions, and we’re waiting for them to get back to us. It’s way too early to say anything,” Lengenfelder said
Hitchings said, “We’re (unions) still discussing what the commissioners proposed. We’re trying to get something (meeting) set up. There are no dates yet.”
The closest hint about financial issues being raised came from Patricia Moore, an SEIU member and an assistant public defender, who said, “We are always willing to try to cut costs. for the county” as she pointed to work by the health care committee in cutting health care costs over several years.
“We wish they had approached us much earlier in the budget process so we feel we could have been more effective as opposed to the 11th hour,” she added.
The meeting with the unions came three days after the commissioners unveiled the proposed 2013 budget of $56.7 million.
It’s scheduled for adoption Dec. 21.
The commissioners said in unveiling the budget that they were able to hold the line on county property taxes while paying for union-negotiated raises by freezing the wages of nonunion and management employees next year. The wage increases will cost $750,000 in 2013, it was reported.
As outlined when the raises were approved in late 2011, about 237 employees who are in three unions received
55-cent an hour raises in 2012 and will get the same amount again in the 5th year of the contract, and 50 cents an hour in each of the other three years.
Other worker groups that represented 209 employees, were to receive a 1.5 percent raise this year and 2 percent in each of the following two years under contract extensions.
All of the contracts expire in 2016.
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