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SEIU president unhappy

| Friday, April 2, 2004

WASHINGTON - Leaders from Washington County's largest union are seething over a rash of layoffs and claim labor relations are on a downward spiral.

Service Employees International Union President Pete Lorenzo, representing about 500 county employees, said he appeared before the county commissioners' Thursday to inform them of problems between the union and the human resources department.

"There was a time when I remember when the county and the union had a strong working relationship and were given the governors award for labor management cooperation," said Lorenzo, a Donora resident and a county employee since 1988. "What's happened since that time?"

Lorenzo cited numerous purported problems with the human services department.

He said the union was only given 20 minutes notice of layoffs in the tax revenue department on March 17.

Since Jan. 1, 25 grievances have been filed for alleged contract violations in the tax revenue office.

"The county just doesn't want to address them," Lorenzo said. "When the union requests information or files a grievance, the response we get is, 'We have to check on it,' or 'We will look into it,' or we get no response at all."

The county has abolished a union tax revenue department position and also a tax assessor position that Lorenzo claims was created through a grievance negotiation.

Lorenzo claimed the layoff of Diana Bova was an act of retaliation. He said Bova was targeted because she made the county aware of problems in the tax revenue department.

Commissioner Bracken Burns said Bova was furloughed because of budgetary reasons.

"It was clearly not a retaliatory move," said Burns.

Burns said the board has a duty to the taxpayers, which is why layoffs have been imposed.

Lorenzo said tax revenue office workers have been furloughed since Dec. 4.

Lorenzo and union shop steward Rebecca Bailey said it is rumored the county is planning to merge the tax revenue office with the recorder of deeds and treasurer's office.

Lorenzo said relations with the county and the union have been strained for some time.

"The cooperation just isn't there," Bailey said.

Commissioner Larry Maggi said he wasn't aware of union problems.

Commissioner Diana Irey said she was willing to meet with the union leaders to discuss their concerns.

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