GALLIPOLIS — Union workers with the Gallia County Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) were present during last week’s regular meeting of the Gallia County Board of Commissioners to discuss how best to communicate their demands to their administration.
Chief Union Steward Ernie Meadows of DJFS and other CWA 4320 union members that work for DJFS questioned the commission in an effort to better understand how and if their requests, including several requests for a pay increase, were being communicated to the commission by DJFS Director Dana Glassburn.
“We are just trying to find out how do we address issues with our director — who is directly under you guys — when we are told one thing by him, but yet we see it’s actually being handled differently,” Meadows said. “We don’t know if he is addressing it with you guys that we are asking these things … or if it’s not getting to you.”
Glassburn was reportedly advised of the meeting with the commissioners but was not present during the discussion.
According to Meadows, following a major union layoff at DJFS in July 2009, remaining union employees received no raise from 2009-2011.
A new union contract signed in 2011 resulted in signing bonuses, but the issue of yearly raises were removed from the new contract as per the DJFS administration, Meadows reported.
“The union did everything we could to keep that in. Management insisted that it come out, but we were assured that when that came out, it would be looked at yearly to see if there were funds in the budget to see if we could get either a raise or a lump sum,” Meadows said. “Dana’s biggest fear, he told us, was that if he agreed to something and more cuts came, he wouldn’t be able to meet it. So, he didn’t want to commit to anything, but [he] would look every year to see if their were monies that were available to the employees.”
Meadows reported that requests in regard to the issue of pay raises were reported to the director at year’s end in 2011 as well as in 2012 with no results.
“We were told that monies would be looked at if they were available, but every time we approach him we’re told we are asking too late or it can’t be done, or whatever,” Meadows stated.
Meadows further reported that a request concerning a buyout option was also turned down, and he was reportedly told that the commission would not consider such an option.
“According to the minutes that I read from you guys, you guys have approved a buyout for your office staff, so evidently buyouts are something you would look at, and raises have been given to county employees that are not under contracts,” Meadows said.
As his requests for discussions were turned down, Meadows reported that a “last resort” meeting with commission was needed as to procure a course of action.
“We’ve tried to be nice and get along and not create a lot of issues, but it’ s getting to the point that we need to figure out how things need to be handled,” he said.
County Commission President Harold Montgomery addressed Meadows and questioned how, contractually, the union approached negotiations prior to the expiration of the contract. The DJFS union contract reportedly expires in December 2013.
“The normal route we would take in mid-term negotiations isn’t working,” Meadows said. “How we normally would handle it isn’t working. Which is completely contrary to what we were told during negotiations.”
Montgomery further stated that discussions with the DJFS director in regard to the union contract have been addressed during executive session, and any discussion surrounding the contract, or reopening therein, would have to be handled through the commission’s legal counsel.
“We discuss things in executive session which I’m not privy to discuss in open session, but if there’s anything regarding reopening the contract or an MOU or anything regarding that, we will have to go back through our legal [counsel] on that,” Montgomery said.
However, Meadows reported that, in the past, the union and DJFS management have been able to cooperate mid-term and draft memorandums of understanding (MOU) — the provisions for which reside within the contract.
“Provisions are in there, but you’ve got to be able to get it to the table, and that’s the problem we’ve got,” Meadows said.
Montgomery further advised the union members to put any discussions surrounding their contract with the DJFS management in writing and to continue to work with the chain of command at their agency.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the commission further offered assurance that any of the union’s requests that had not been directly addressed in executive session thus far, would be addressed in executive session with the DJFS director in the future.