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Negotiations stall between Jackson County, public employees

The Employee Association's bargaining team declared an impasse in contract negotiations this week after six months at the bargaining table.

Posted: Jan 24, 2020 4:01 PM
Updated: Mar 11, 2020 3:21 PM

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — Contract negotiations between Jackson County and the public employees union have reached an impasse, according to statements from both sides released on Friday.

The County and employee representatives have been sparring over pay and benefits for six months, according to SEIU Local 503, the union that has been representing Jackson County public employees.

"The Jackson County Employees Association's bargaining team declared impasse on Tuesday because they felt that after 6 months at the bargaining table, continuing negotiations would not lead to fair wages and an affordable healthcare plan for employees," said Melissa Unger, executive director of SEIU Local 503. "It is our hope that a deadline for negotiations will lead to a fair settlement that the hard working employees of Jackson County can live with."

According to Unger, Jackson County employees earn wages that are between 13 and 28 percent less than other counties in Oregon.

"As a result, the county regularly loses talented people to other jobs. That turnover harms the services everyone in Jackson County relies on," Unger said.

A statement from County officials, however, says that those comparisons are being made to counties like Clackamas, Lane, and Marion.

"The County does not believe that these Counties are the best to compare with Jackson County," officials said. "The County believes that the other five Counties — Deschutes, Douglas, Linn, Josephine, and Klamath — are more comparable in nature to Jackson County. Currently, the County’s overall pay plan is right at the average of these other Counties."

According to data from the 2010 Census, Jackson County is more populous than any of the counties listed by County officials. It also has a smaller population than any of those reportedly cited by the union.


RELATED: Jackson County public employees rally outside offices for better healthcare


But the true sticking point in negotiations, Unger says, comes down to healthcare.

"The current plan is so expensive that many low wage employees can’t afford to use it," Unger said. The union has been pushing for County officials to take up the statewide healthcare pool offered by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB), which they say would both make healthcare more affordable and save taxpayers almost $1 million per year.

"It’s a win/win, but the county won’t take the deal," Unger said.

County officials say that they have offered a healthcare plan that would give all public employees who work at least 30 hours per week the same insurance benefits that managers and non-represented employees currently receive — with a $49.95 premium, $750 deductible, $20 copays, and a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $2,250.

"The County is concerned, based on Oregon health insurance industry research, that the PEBB may not be sustainable as it currently exists," officials said. "In addition, when hard times have hit the State of Oregon, the Executive and Legislative Branches have used PEBB’s reserves to balance the general fund. If PEBB’s ability to continue to operate becomes unstable, the State could simply ask for more contributions to make up the losses leaving our tax payers and our employees to pick up the tab."

Declaring an impasse begins a 30-day cooling off period, Unger said, during which negotiations can continue. Once that time is up, the County can make a final offer, and employees can choose to go on strike if they don’t accept the final offer.

"We hope that the impending deadline will lead to a resolution at the bargaining table that includes fair wages and affordable healthcare for county employees," Unger said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 22613

Reported Deaths: 385
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah5186101
Washington325827
Marion309073
Umatilla239832
Clackamas162749
Malheur86915
Deschutes62711
Lane6154
Jackson5362
Yamhill50213
Lincoln4319
Union3972
Jefferson3964
Morrow3933
Polk35012
Linn31511
Hood River2150
Klamath2062
Wasco1993
Benton1826
Douglas1591
Josephine1362
Columbia1031
Coos930
Clatsop880
Baker520
Crook511
Tillamook350
Lake320
Wallowa201
Curry170
Sherman160
Harney110
Gilliam40
Grant40
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 613101

Reported Deaths: 11148
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2188315215
Riverside45662881
Orange42854789
San Bernardino39374561
San Diego34065622
Kern25888204
Fresno19157203
San Joaquin14651261
Alameda14558219
Santa Clara13865208
Sacramento13615199
Tulare12105205
Stanislaus11953195
Contra Costa10756152
Imperial10035257
Ventura909095
San Francisco805369
Santa Barbara727477
San Mateo6803126
Merced677789
Monterey589041
Marin567482
Kings524364
Solano459641
Sonoma406351
Madera292447
Placer254327
San Luis Obispo243918
Yolo196646
Santa Cruz13716
Butte137012
Napa120611
Sutter10917
El Dorado8272
San Benito8154
Yuba7404
Lassen6950
Mendocino52910
Shasta48810
Glenn4363
Colusa4095
Nevada3621
Tehama3121
Humboldt3094
Lake2682
Amador20811
Calaveras1741
Mono1601
Tuolumne1602
Inyo1275
Siskiyou1110
Del Norte1060
Mariposa632
Plumas390
Trinity80
Sierra60
Modoc50
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
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Brookings
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