By KELLY SHIPP
Gorge News Report
A grievance filed by the union representing the Klickitat County Sheriff's commissioned uniformed employees against the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) and Sheriff Rick McComas has now been sent to arbitration.
Eddie Allen, a staff representative of Council 2 of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees AFSCME AFL-CIO and who is not employed by the KCSO, said that Local 1533DC AFSCME AFL-CIO filed the grievance on behalf of the six patrol deputies who submitted the initial complaint of a reduction of hours. The deputies felt the reduction was in violation of their collectively bargained agreement.
According to Allen, the grounds for the grievance are that the reduction in hours was caused by mismanagement of the budget; that McComas and the KCSO are acting in bad faith; and that McComas and the KCSO failed to negotiate with the union for the reduction in hours.
On Nov. 4, KCSO patrol deputies had their weekly hours cut from 40 hours to 38 hours.
The arbitration will be handled through the Washington State Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), which provides mediation and arbitration services in labor-management disputes while working to prevent or minimize disruptions to public services.
"I do not believe there is any substance to those claims," said McComas. Both McComas and Undersheriff Jolene Kallio have cited an unforeseeable rise in expenses as the reason for the reduction in hours and indicated the KCSO would not have made it through 2012 without them.
"With the budget limitations I had and the rise in expenses, I had to make some choices that were not favorable to the deputies," McComas added. "They have the right to argue or complain within reason. I am conscious of the feelings of my employees."
The 2012 KCSO budget was $3,830,250, a 7 percent reduction from the 2011 budget of $4,106,516. In the transition from the 2011 budget to 2012 budget, the KCSO reduced expenditures for operations -- anything that is not wages and benefits.
The union grievance was also filed with the Klickitat County Personnel Department. Randi Post, county Director of Personnel, said, "The sheriff's deputy contract is under the sheriff's domain. The Personnel Department is not always privy to all grievances with the Sheriff. The union says that the cut to hours should have been bargained. The contract says that management has the right to change hours and assignments."
"We feel that the reduction of hours was an act of bad faith bargaining," said Allen. "The collectively bargained agreement was signed the end of August, and by the middle of October the deputies received notice from Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Kaley that their hours were being reduced. There was no mention of a possible reduction of hours when the agreement was being negotiated. The working conditions have been changed. That should have been negotiated."
"This can go one of three ways," said McComas. PERC can direct the union and the KCSO renegotiate; it can make a ruling on what the KCSO did wrong and how to correct it; or it can confirm that the KCSO made the reduction of hours within their rights.
"We are consulting with the Prosecuting Attorney ,who is representing us during arbitration, ensuring the information needed is available, and waiting for a hearing date," said McComas. "I am hoping for a quick and agreeable solution."
A hearing date has not been set. "I am 99.9 percent sure we can hope to restore the deputies to 40 hours a week on Jan. 1," McComas added.