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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.

Cases: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
Deschutes19577123
Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4810682

Reported Deaths: 70604
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147569426398
Riverside3693444990
San Diego3641044163
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
Kern1441461605
Fresno1441232051
Alameda1198871374
San Joaquin1018071708
Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
El Dorado16960149
Sutter13775169
Napa12808100
Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
Humboldt9102108
Nevada903990
Mendocino752786
Lassen746346
San Benito737372
Tuolumne673993
Lake6506104
Amador537264
Siskiyou442742
Glenn430330
Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
Colusa301718
Inyo196739
Mono16445
Plumas15756
Mariposa127315
Trinity86011
Modoc6698
Unassigned1860
Sierra1760
Alpine1020
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