Jail union declares impasse over grievance procedures

Published: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 2:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 2:29 p.m.

The union representing Alachua County jail correctional officers has declared an impasse in its negotiations with Sheriff Sadie Darnell, saying the sides have failed to reach agreement on a number of issues including grievance procedures, pay, promotions and safety.

Jeff McAdams, president of Fraternal Order of Police Gator Lodge 67, said the sides have negotiated since December 2010 but could not agree on one particular issue — creation of a new grievance procedure.

“This is not about money. They want money because they haven’t had any money in a long time, but more than money they want job protection,” said McAdams, a Gainesville police officer. “They don’t feel like they have job protection. They don’t have the ability to appeal to an outside source.”

Darnell said she agrees that jail officers need raises but added she wants to maintain control over discipline of the correctional staff.

“I am unwilling to give up my authority and responsibility regarding the discipline process,” she said in an email to The Sun. “There has been a longstanding, fair and balanced matrix system utilized in determining discipline. I do not plan to change the current process.”

Currently, grievances are heard by an appeals board that includes members appointed by the union and the sheriff. The rules for the board are written by the sheriff, McAdams said.

The union was pushing for an arbitration process in which an independent grievance officer hears a case and issues a binding order.

When the sides could not agree on that, McAdams said, all the other issues such as pay and performance evaluations came back on the table as part of the impasse.

About 234 corrections officers are represented by the union but less than half are union members, McAdams said. Some have told him they cannot afford union dues of $20 a paycheck while others are fearful of joining, McAdams said.

Under the impasse procedure, a special magistrate will be appointed to hear testimony and review evidence from both sides.

The magistrate will issue a decision to the union for ratification and to the Alachua County Commission for approval or modification. The commission has the final say in the matter and can enact provisions for up to one year if the sides vote differently on the magistrate’s decision.

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