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Washington Commissioners invited to join negotiations

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002

WASHINGTON, Pa. - Negotiations continued today between Washington County and its largest union, and the commissioners have been invited to join the process.

Service Employees International Union Local 585, which represents 475 workers in the areas of nursing, 911, maintenance, aging services and clerical, asked the county commissioners to attend today's negotiating session.

On Monday, SEIU representatives submitted a petition calling for the commissioners to attend the session. About 300 union employees signed the petition.

Local 585 representative Dino Bruno has said that he is disappointed with the lack of participation at the negotiating table by the county commissioners.

Employees have been working without a contract since Dec. 31.

Washington County Commission Chairman John P. Bevec contends he has attended as many meetings as his schedule has allowed.

"I've been to four sessions and I'm briefed after every single one," Bevec said.

Bevec said the next negotiating session is set for 10 a.m. Thursday - the same time as the commissioners' bimonthly public meeting.

Commissioner J. Bracken Burns said that representatives from both sides - not the commissioners - traditionally attend negotiating sessions.

"We have two people present at every meeting who are qualified to negotiate," Burns said.

He was quick to note, however, that he doesn't believe the board "is avoiding the issue."

"We think we have a good package on the table," Burns said.

A state mediator will continue to preside over the process.

Bruno said the stalemate is rooted in fringe benefits.

The union would like to have family dental coverage and a point-of-service health insurance plan offered by Community Blue.

The county is offering individual dental coverage and a health maintenance organization (HMO) carrier for medical insurance.

Bevec said the county doesn't have the financial means to offer a family dental package.

The union also is seeking improved salary adjustments for certain jobs and is discussing mandatory overtime at the health center.

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