Union unhappy with memo

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BROOKSVILLE – A memo fired off by the head of the county’s human resources department, asking all supervisors to reclassify any employee’s job description and bring them up to the appropriate salary rate, has been met with criticism by the union.

John Sholtes, business agent for Teamsters Local 79, said in a letter the union would file a blanket grievance and possibly an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employees Relations Commission if the county doesn’t stop this reclassification effort.

Sholtes said reclassifying employees without posting the newly created positions is a violation of the contract.

“We cannot allow management personnel to simply submit reclassification requests at will and give certain employees raises without bargaining with the union over those increases,” Sholtes wrote in a letter to Assistant County Administrator for General Services Russ Wetherington.

Wetherington said the inference in the letter is that the county is “picking and choosing” who it wants to give raises to and that it is playing favorites.

Wetherington said many employees took on new job responsibilities after former County Administrator David Hamilton downsized the workforce. A reclassification effort is badly needed and overdue, he said.

“(Sholtes) is interpreting it as favoritism,” Wetherington said. “It’s not.”

This all started when Director of Administrative Services Cheryl Marsden sent out a memo this month to various supervisors and department managers asking them to submit all reclassification requests to the Human Resources Department during the budget process.

The requests would ultimately be approved by Marsden and County Administrator Len Sossamon.

Marsden agreed with Wetherington there is no attempt to show favoritism. Reaching out to supervisors to see if there are any employees whose job duties may have changed and then reclassifying that position is common practice and is spelled out in the county policy book, she said.

That policy states that departments assign work “within the scope of allocated positions and their classifications.

“However, when a position’s duties change substantially due to reasons beyond the control of the department, the job will be re-evaluated by Human Resources and a determination will be made whether the position needs to be classified to another grade.”

So far, she said about eight employees have been submitted to the budget department for reclassification, which carries with it pay raises from 5-10 percent. If approved, the new salaries and reclassified descriptions would go into effect Oct. 1, the first day of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Managers will build those pay increases into their 2014 budgets for consideration by county commissioners.

“We have the right to do this,” Marsden said.

Some county commissioners, already looking at a loss of $1.7 million in general fund revenue next year, said reclassifying job descriptions to make them current is a worthy initiative. However, there is no money in the budget to pay for any salary hikes that come with those reclassifications, they said.

County Commissioner Jim Adkins said the private sector is requiring employees to take on extra duties with no pay and the government should be no different.

Adkins praised county employees who he said work diligently, even with extra duties. But unless someone can find a pot of money, there isn’t any way to pay them more money.

Adkins said he also wants details of just what these “extra duties” are that require reclassifying.

“Does it involve answering the phone or doing something different?” he asked.

Adkins said he will not go to the taxpayers and ask for money to pay for salaries associated with job reclassifications.

“I hope (Marsden and Wetherington) find out where the money’s coming from because we’re looking at a deficit,” he said.

Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he believes some employees need revised job classifications but any corresponding pay hike would have to be discussed during upcoming budget talks.

“If this does need to happen, we need to come up with more money and we’ll look at it during budget time,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said updated employee evaluations will be invaluable in determining whether certain employees are doing their assigned tasks.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said it might be time to review the county’s reclassification policy.

“I think that’s something our administrator (Len Sossamon) should engage with our Human Resources Director (Marsden) to review the program,” Russell said. “It hasn’t been reviewed in awhile and let’s see if any efficiencies or adjustments need to be made and bring forth recommendations to the board.”

The last time county employee received an across-the-board pay raise was in the 2006-07 fiscal year and they got 3 percent, Russell said.

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said this is the first he’s heard of this matter and planned to look into it with Sossamon.

As for any pay raises associated with reclassifying: “We don’t have any money,” Dukes said.

Commissioner Diane Rowden also planned to look into the issue.


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