Since that time, council has met twice. No concern has been expressed for its overburdened courthouse staff. Members have instead engaged in backroom maneuvers to eliminate Ann McHale as Council VP. Ironically, she is the one person on council most familiar with the county workforce. As the chair of an active personnel committee, she convened thirteen meetings last year.
County Executive John Stoffa's top priority in 2007 is his underpaid workforce. This year, he plans a much-needed overhaul of the county's antiquated salary structure. Although he has spent most of his first year putting out brush fires started by the previous administration, many employees now blame him for the mess they're in. A county worker recently popped on my blog to say this.
I am a Northampton County worker and I have left comments here before........and even though I have only worked here a short while I'm sorry, I don't see how Stoffa "cares" about his underdog employees, especially hearing what I've heard at the union meetings and at our stand-off on December 7th. I was told the other day, by an employee who has worked here 20 years, that this was the first year the county executive hasn't come to all the offices to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. How pathetic.........and he has still not made a comment to us like he promised to do "the very next day" after our stand-off. We are still waiting---another lie and more proof he's just trying to dodge the issue. He has sent all of the residual unit employees a letter back in July of 2006, trying to make it look like the union was lying about him, when in fact it was his letter that was the lie. If in fact indeed Stoffa was concerned about morale and employees at the County, then he would approach us as individuals, visit our offices to see what we actually do, (which he has not--he is always shocked when learning new things that happen in our offices.......if it's that shocking and he doesn't know, then perhaps it would be in his best interest to go out of his way, leave his office, come see us and find out.) We are individuals, human beings, and we are frustrated, and in our office, severely overworked and underpaid. Boy, if Stoffa really knew how much work we are required to do in our office.......but he refuses to meet the employees and visit them in the offices, and continues to avoid employees pleas to come to a "fair" (which in my opinion I would still be underpaid for my experience, knowledge and required workload) contract. It appears to me Stoffa and the friends he gives the special jobs to think very little of the county employees---actions speak much louder than words, and not on a little occasional talk show, but on a daily basis right here on county level.
I agree workers should have contracts by now. But Stoffa, unlike his predecessor, has tried to involve himself in day-to-day county operations. I've watched him unsuccessfully try to record a deed. I've seen emails he has sent to employees soliciting opinions about what they would do if they had his job. I've seen an email with very specific questions about parking.
And Stoffa has had to deal with an explosion of thirteen different unions, thanks to the Reibman layoffs. One of these is the Steelworkers union at Gracedale. Stoffa's administration was able to negotiate a contract with that union in a few short months.
So why is there no contract with AFSCME, the union certified to represent the residual unit? It's easy to place all the blame on one person, but let's looks at a few details.
* When AFSCME was certified to represent the residual unit on July 1, 2003, John Stoffa was not county executive. Two and a half years went by before that happened.
* Northampton County administrators conducted 35 negotiation sessions with AFSCME for the residual unit before making its "Final Offer".
* Throughout the summer, Stoffa claims he repeatedly requested negotiation sessions, but AFSCME refused, and the county ended up filing an unfair labor practice.
* County council members tell the executive one thing in open session and whisper different things to union negotiators.
* County negotiations have been conducted by a law firm paid by the hour.
I would not be so quick to lay all the blame at Stoffa's doormat. He wants to get it done. So does the union. So I suggest they do so. We can quibble about who's really responsible for the failure in negotiations. But no one can dispute the identity of the victims - the county workforce.
Their meager wages are a serious problem. But that's not their biggest problem. Many of them are becoming ill as the county continues to construct a palace for judges with reckless disregard for both county workforce and general public. As contractors embark on a mega asbestos removal project, workers are dropping like flies. Butz hasn't even bothered to place asbestos removal signs in a prominent location that can be viewed by the public and all employees. More about that next week.