UNION REJECTS COUNTY OFFER; NEGOTIATIONS GO TO ARBITRATION

UNION REJECTS COUNTY OFFER; NEGOTIATIONS GO TO ARBITRATION

Union negotiations between Doña Ana County and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have reached an end and will now go to arbitration after AFSCME rejected a key provision of Doña Ana County’s proposed union contract.

Both sides already had agreed to address a broad range of employee concerns, including salary increases and increased benefits for the unionized employees, who include detention personnel and other blue-collar workers in several county departments.

Union negotiators insisted, however, that Doña Ana County agree to a “Fair Share” provision of the contract, which would have required the county to terminate any existing employees who qualified for union membership but opted not to join.

During mediation negotiations, Doña Ana County agreed to the provision only if AFSCME would hold an election among those who would be affected in which at least 85 percent of the affected employees agreed to the provision.

At the request of the union negotiators, the county extended the agreement deadline on three separate occasions. AFSCME waited until the last possible moment to decline the county’s offer, which sends the entire process into arbitration. Arbitration could delay any agreement by more than six months.

“I can’t express the level of my disappointment in this turn of events,” said County Manager Brian D. Haines. “At the direction of the board, staff negotiated in continued good faith and offered repeated extensions of time to the union to make a decision. The hard-working employees of Doña Ana County will pay the price for this unnecessary delay on the part of the union. All we wanted was for the union to hold an election among their membership, and they refused, which puts us back at square one.”