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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: 40136

Reported Deaths: 633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah8689154
Marion5547106
Washington542972
Umatilla327643
Clackamas297065
Lane217026
Malheur185834
Jackson15196
Deschutes106513
Yamhill95115
Linn75814
Polk63715
Jefferson5979
Morrow5426
Lincoln50813
Union4562
Benton4196
Klamath4013
Wasco33415
Douglas3244
Hood River2691
Josephine2573
Columbia2471
Clatsop2350
Coos2250
Baker1122
Crook862
Tillamook690
Curry561
Wallowa402
Lake350
Sherman180
Harney150
Gilliam110
Grant100
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 883746

Reported Deaths: 17055
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2900096912
Riverside646681273
San Bernardino606211028
Orange573731412
San Diego53000857
Kern33497410
Fresno30152430
Sacramento24582471
Santa Clara23458382
Alameda22807433
San Joaquin21196484
Contra Costa18214236
Stanislaus17354393
Tulare17206276
Ventura13930160
Imperial12534335
San Francisco11937133
Monterey1111783
San Mateo10889157
Santa Barbara9641119
Merced9375152
Sonoma9016134
Kings817383
Solano717174
Marin7030127
Madera492073
San Luis Obispo404932
Placer401255
Yolo308656
Butte302651
Santa Cruz272223
Napa189214
Sutter181912
Shasta178629
San Benito140714
El Dorado12904
Yuba127810
Mendocino110421
Tehama7938
Lassen7571
Lake67315
Glenn6423
Nevada5908
Humboldt5589
Colusa5476
Calaveras33317
Amador31316
Tuolumne2554
Inyo21815
Siskiyou1850
Del Norte1751
Mono1752
Mariposa782
Plumas540
Modoc270
Trinity230
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Medford
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Brookings
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