Contract for corrections union finally reached

LOCK HAVEN — Members of the union that supports deputy sheriffs and corrections officers, cooks and maintenance workers at the county correctional facility finally negotiated an employment contract with the county–almost seven months past the Dec. 31 deadline.

That union supports around 75 corrections employees and deputy sheriffs.

Of the nearly 300 county employees, 140 belong to AFSCME Council 86 (which encompasses the correctional employees union and court-related employees union) and around 140 are non-union workers.

The big sticking point in contract negotiations was a scheduling change supported by former Warden John Rowley and acting Warden Angela Hoover that shifts correctional officers to working three 12-hour shifts alternating with four 12-hour shifts, leading to a three-day weekend every other week. Rowley proposed the change in December as an incentive for correctional officers. But the union objected to that change, so the issue went to arbitration.

According to Commissioner Chair Pete Smeltz, the arbitrator agreed that the alternating three- and four-day-a-week 12-hours shifts were fair, so that measure will be included in the labor contract.

“The commissioners are pleased (that), through good faith negotiations, we reached a final agreement with AFSCME. We feel the terms of this contract are fair to our covered employees as well as fair to the county and the taxpayers,” the commissioners said in a statement they issued Monday.

Commissioner Paul Conklin said the schedule change for correctional officers will save the prison needing to hire three to five more corrections officers, since the new hours provide more coverage.

Employees in the court-related union reached an agreement with the county in early April in which they negotiated a 2 percent salary raise for this year, a 2.25 percent raise for next year and a 2.5 percent raise in 2020 and 2021.

The correctional employees union negotiated the same salary terms and, like the court-related employees union, all changes in the contract are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.

As for health care, correctional employee union members will start paying a higher percentage of their coverage. This year, they will pay 8 percent of their plans, next year they will pay 9 percent, and in the third and fourth year of the contract they will pay 10 percent.

And if the Cadillac Tax–a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would enact a 40-percent indirect tax on high-cost employer health benefit plans–goes into effect, employees will bear most of the cost, Smeltz said.

In the ongoing Conservation District building issue, Smeltz said the county agreed to meet with the Conservation District Board of Directors and “continue discussions on their concerns.”

Elisabeth McCoy, speaking as a citizen of Clinton County, said she was “1,000 percent against” the Conservation District moving to downtown Lock Haven. She implored commissioners to pause action on the matter and review the Conservation District’s employee and space needs.

“And let’s stop moving the Conservation District,” she said.

Though it is no fault of the county or anyone else, she said, “there’s definitely a disconnect between (the county and the Conservation District).” She even suggested possibly combining the Clinton County Economic Partnership, Conservation District and a possible Greenway partnership in the same building, near the County Piper Building offices.

In her role as the project director of Clinton County CleanScapes, McCoy reported that the organization applied for an M&T Bank Foundation Grant to re-assess Bald Eagle Creek from Bald Eagle Township to the West Branch of the Susquehanna.