Westmoreland commissioners ratify labor contract |

Westmoreland commissioners ratify labor contract

Westmoreland County commissioners grudgingly ratified a four-year labor contract for about 240 court-related workers who pulled out of a deal reached with county negotiators last year.

During a special meeting Thursday night in Jeannette, the commissioners unanimously approved the contract, which was finalized during the summer by a state arbitrator.

In July, an arbitrator recommended that employees in the county’s court-related offices represented by the Service Employees International Union receive annual hourly raises that average 6.6 percent for the length of the deal.

Those raises exceed salary increases given to the rest of the rank and file, which in the spring of 2002 approved a four-year contract that called for average hourly raises of 5.5 percent in the first two years and 4.5 percent in the final two years of the deal.

Court-related workers in the offices of the clerk of courts, prothonotary, register of wills and district justices objected to that contract and voted to renegotiate a deal for their own section of the bargaining unit.

When a second set of negotiations with that section failed to produce a settlement, the contract went to binding arbitration.

SEIU members signed off on the arbitrator’s recommendation last month, a move that essentially handcuffed the county into implementing the new deal.

Commissioner Tom Balya, who has been critical of the arbitrator’s award, said yesterday the county had little alternative but to implement the terms of the deal.

“I’m looking at a hole in the budget I’m going to have to patch. The law says we have to approve it,” Balya said.

County officials have said the new deal will cost taxpayers an additional $365,000 during the next four years.

SEIU local President Bud Santimeyer initially said the arbitrator’s award was not all that the union had sought, but yesterday he indicated his members were pleased with the outcome.

Court-related workers have not seen a raise since 2001 and will get their new salaries retroactive to April 2002.

“Let’s put some of the past debate behind us and move forward in a positive fashion,” Santimeyer said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.