Westmoreland County workers reject proposed labor contract
Union members who account for nearly half of all Westmoreland County government workers rejected a new labor contract — for the second time in two months.
County officials had not received “formal word” as of Friday afternoon that their latest offer had been declined, Commissioner Chuck Anderson said.
“We’re certainly disappointed,” he said. “I felt it was a good proposal for the county and for workers.”
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 668 and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania on Thursday voted against a tentative agreement on a four-year contract that negotiators hashed out in recent bargaining sessions.
No details of the proposal were revealed.
Workers in October rejected a previous offer that called for raises in the final three years of the contract and increased employee health care contributions.
The unions, which represent about 900 county employees, bargain and vote together. Members have worked without a contract since the start of the year.
SEIU Local 668 represents courthouse clerical and maintenance workers, 911 dispatchers and road crews. Healthcare Pennsylvania represents nurses and other staff at Westmoreland Manor, the county nursing home.
SEIU officials released a statement but did not disclose vote totals. The union said a bargaining committee is determining what to do next.
The county will decide “where to go from here” once it receives formal notification the deal has been rejected, Anderson said.
John Felice, the county’s chief negotiator, said the county had not received word of any strike authorization.
Workers hope to continue talks until a new contract is reached, said Mandy Howe, a Manor nurse aide and member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
“I have been a nursing-home caregiver for 16 years and devoted my life to caring for Westmoreland County’s seniors,” she said. “I love my job, but it is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting.”
Employees want a contract “that compensates us fairly for the important work we do caring for our county’s most vulnerable citizens,” Howe said. “Would you want anything less for your parent or grandparent?”
John Lowry, a county aging care manager and member of SEIU Local 668, also hoped to continue negotiating with the county to find a resolution “that will respect the needs of the workers and taxpayers alike.”
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860 or [email protected].