County offers contract to sheriff#039;s office

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003

On Tuesday, the Lawrence County Commission approved a new contract to offer the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office. Now its up to the sheriff's office employees to agree to the 3-year pact.

The more than 40 members of the union have been working without a contract since the old one expired at the beginning of the year.

One of the main sticking points to negotiations had been health insurance. This year, the county began contributing a fixed amount to each employee's health insurance premiums, instead of the previous 85-percent contribution. The change was made to keep the county's insurance costs down.

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The employees' union, Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council, had previously asked that employees covered under the family plan option be allowed to stay under the old calculation of 85 percent instead of the fixed amount. A fact finder had earlier agreed with the union's stance on the issue.

Some workers have been concerned that any raises they would receive will not be enough to cover the hike in insurance costs, especially for those workers who make $7-8 an hour.

The new proposal will phase in the fixed amount and place a cap on the amount that employees will contribute toward their health insurance.

FOP representative Barry Gray estimated that about one-third to one-half of the union members have family plan coverage.

Under the approval signed by the commission, the employees will receive 40-, 45- and 50-cent

wage hikes over the 3-year contract.

Commissioner Jason Stephens said the county has proposed a change in the wording of the "me, too" clause in the contract. A "me, too" clause allows one union to receive the same compensation or benefits as another union if the other union later negotiates a better deal with the county. Stephens said the original wording had been too broad, and could have been interpreted to allow the sheriff's employees to invoke the clause in situations where the commission has no control. The new wording will allow the "me, too" clause to be effective only in situations involving offices and departments under the county's general fund.

The union covers deputies, clerks, dispatchers, cooks and corrections officers.