Piscataquis County salaried officers want union

Posted Nov. 18, 2008, at 9:32 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:58 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Four salaried employees in the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department and jail have petitioned the commissioners to form a bargaining unit.

Jail Administrator David Harmon, Dispatch Supervisor David Roberts, Investigator Lt. Robert Young and Clerk Specialist Anita Pushor say they have not received the same percentage of pay increases that their subordinates have.

“As longevity increases, we have subordinates making more money than supervisors,” Roberts said.

Commissioners Tom Lizotte, Fred Trask and Eric Ward discussed the petition Tuesday in an executive session.

“If they want to have a bargaining unit, we’re fine with that,” Lizotte said after the meeting. He said the commissioners would sit down with the employees and discuss their pay and benefits. He added, however, that he believes the salaried employees are being treated fairly.

The foursome had filed a similar petition last year but dropped the matter after meeting with the commissioners.

“Last year, we tried to bargain in good faith, and we were assured we’d be treated fairly, and that’s why we dropped the union attempt last year. But this year negotiations went in the opposite direction,” Roberts said Tuesday. “They have forced it onto us.”

Harmon said he feels the four are not being treated fairly. “Because of the wage scale the county set up, we haven’t been afforded the percentages of increases between our pay and the person directly underneath us as subordinates,” he said.

Another troubling change effective Jan. 1, according to Sheriff John Goggin, is the fact the county will no longer pay 100 percent insurance coverage for dependents of county employees. Goggin said Tuesday he would receive a $1,500 raise, but he will have to pay $6,292 more a year for the dependent insurance coverage. The dependent coverage was given in lieu of raises by previous boards of commissioners, he said.

Lizotte said employees were notified two years ago that the county would pay only 60 percent of family coverage in 2009 yet would continue full coverage for employees.

As for the issue with pay, members of management are not on a wage scale because they are not paid on an hourly basis; they are salaried, Lizotte said. “They want to have the best of both worlds where they receive a salary but also are on a wage scale. That’s not how things are done,” he said.

Lizotte said those on the management team will make more than the people who report to them because the commissioners have provided a $1,500 increase between them and the next class of employees.

There are wage classifications in the budget, and there is an 8 percent separation from one class of employees to another, according to Lizotte. He said that during budget deliberations, the management team asked for the 8 percent separation along with a 3 percent cost of living increase, which would amount to an 11 percent hike.

“No one in Piscataquis County is getting an 11 percent increase, and given the economic circumstances an 11 percent increase is almost unbelievable,” Lizotte said. Even the budget advisory committee called it “outrageous” and said 3 percent should be the maximum, he said.

“We realize the economic hardships the entire state is in at this time, but that is not our fault,” Goggin said. “Everybody is taking a hard hit because of the recession, and some are losing their jobs, but we don’t want to be the fall guy where we are being discriminated against by the county commissioners.”

Also attending Tuesday’s executive session was Annalee Ziman Rosenblatt of Scarborough, a specialist in contract negotiations and human relations. Earlier on Tuesday, Rosenblatt pitched her services to the county at a cost of $6,500 for a year plus mileage. Her offer will be contemplated by the commissioners, but they took no action after her presentation.

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