Break seen in sheriff, corrections union contract impasse


Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 12:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 6:50 p.m.

The impasse between the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and corrections officers represented by the Fraternal Order of Police Gator Lodge 67 may end soon, with negotiations spurred by the availability of a 3 percent increase to offset employees’ state-mandated pension contributions.

Jeff McAdams, president of Gator Lodge 67, met with a Sheriff’s Office bargaining team helmed by Col. David Huckstep Thursday morning to negotiate the 3 percent pay bump for the corrections officers he represents as well as for FOP deputies, who already have a contract in place.

A lump-sum payment, which would restore the money employees have already contributed to the Florida Retirement System since the state mandate took effect on July 1, 2011, was also up for negotiation.

McAdams negotiated for the deputies first, tentatively agreeing to accept the wage increase, which offsets the required 3 percent pension payments, and the lump-sum money.

Then, after a brief recess, negotiations began for the corrections officers who work at the Alachua County Jail. Huckstep told McAdams the Sheriff’s Office and FOP had agreed on almost every issue in the contract for the employees except their grievance procedure, which handles how workers are disciplined.

He questioned why the debate on that issue couldn’t have been delayed until the next contract negotiation instead of being pushed to a union-enacted impasse in September of last year.

“Impasse is a nice word for lawsuit,” he said. “The employees are suing the sheriff, and we’re using a nice word to make it politically correct.”

If the union workers drop the impasse, the Sheriff’s Office will give them the 3 percent increase and lump-sum payments, Huckstep said. If they don’t, they may not receive those until mid-summer after the impasse has been resolved.

McAdams has argued that the sheriff should give the corrections officers those wage offers immediately without using it as a bargaining chip to resume negotiations on the impasse.

“Were being strong-armed to this,” McAdams said of the bargaining team’s insistence that the corrections officers drop the impasse.

In a letter to Darnell earlier this month, McAdams said he waived his right to bargain on the pay increase and lump-sum payment. Darnell requested they meet to negotiate instead.

Louise Grimm, human resources director for the Sheriff’s Office, said Darnell could legally have agreed to a memorandum of understanding with McAdams and extended the wage hike and lump-sum payment without negotiations.

However, Grimm said, the sheriff believed it was in the employees’ best interest to negotiate and attempt to end the impasse and establish a contract for the corrections officers.

McAdams and the Sheriff’s Office bargaining team will return from recess at 1:30 p.m. to conclude negotiations for the corrections officers. Then, McAdams said he would take the proposal to the employees for a ratification vote on ending the impasse.

The FOP deputies will also vote on the proposed changes to their contract in order to ratify it before the wage increase and lump-sum take effect.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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