NEW PORT RICHEY — After more than three years, Pasco County and the Teamsters Local 79 may be close to approving their first contract following the second pro-union ruling by a special magistrate.
The two sides have been attempting to negotiate their first contract since late 2010. Teamsters lead negotiator John Sholtes said the employees are happy with the report. “The union is optimistic about reaching an agreement with the county,” he said.
In 2011, a special magistrate ruled in favor of the union on virtually every disputed item. The county’s labor attorney accused him of bias and refused to adhere to his recommendations. County Commissioners rejected his report, forcing both sides to return to the bargaining table for another two years.
The Teamsters declared an impasse for the second time in October. Sholtes said the two sides were hung up on two major disagreements regarding discipline and overtime pay.
But during the Jan. 28 impasse hearing, both sides agreed to keep the county’s disciplinary appeal procedures in place. Which left only one issue unresolved: whether members of the union could continue to collect overtime pay in the same week they take time off for vacation, sick leave, funeral leave or weather-related leave.
Under the county’s policy, which has been in place since 1988, a county employee who takes four days off and works 10 hours on Friday would be entitled to two hours of overtime pay. The county wants to change the policy so that only hours worked would be counted toward overtime.
Special Magistrate Dorothy Cowser Yancy sided with the union on the overtime matter. She said the county didn’t provide documentation or data to support its position. “The county simply stated that there was a need to contain cost and occurrences,” she wrote.
Yancy also noted that the county updated its personnel manual in 2002 but made no changes to the overtime policy at that time.
“If the present policy is an economic burden, the county should have had at least 12 years of data to support its claim, which it did not present,” she wrote.
Personnel Director Barbara DeSimone said the county has until March 21 to accept or reject Yancy’s recommendation. If both sides accept the report, the contract will go to the entire union membership for a ratification vote.
The Teamsters represent 1,100 Pasco employees — more than half of the county’s total workforce.