Dispute between Northampton County and Prison Guards Settled in Arbitration
At least one of the nine labor unions in Pennsylvania’s Northampton County will have a new contract deal soon and will no longer be working under an expired contract. Arbitration was used to settle the contract dispute and as a result, the county’s corrections offers will receive an 11% pay hike that will be implemented incrementally between 2006 and 2017. The new contract also requires offers to pay a 10% co-insurance fee capped at $2500 for singles and $5000 for families. Gap insurance will be offered on a temporary basis to ease the strain on government employees.
The majority of state employees were forced to start making co-pays at the beginning of 2015, but prison guards were grandfathered into the program. The union had requested a 3% raise and no co-pay.
Representatives from the state administration view the outcome of the arbitration as a loss. Council President Peg Ferraro stated, “The county always loses when we go to arbitration, but I’m sure the unions are happy.”
Others involved on the side of the union point out that arbitration often results in an outcome that makes both sides unhappy. Legal fees can be expensive and there is a complete loss of control.
Originally, the administration had offered a 2.5% pay increase, but the union shot down that offer that included insurance co-pays. In addition to the co-payments and pay hike, the arbitrator limited the county’s ability to shift work schedules for officers. At the moment, employees are occasionally required to work overtime. The county hoped to end that system by scheduling two off days during the week for weekend workers.