Friday, July 02, 2021

NorCo COs Request Hazard Pay

A coterie of Northampton County corrections officers, festooned in green AFSCME T-shirts, was at Northampton County Council last night to seek hazard pay. AFSCME Staff Representative Bryan Dayoc, who spoke on their behalf, stated officers ore subjected to verbal and physical assault, being spit on, and having feces thrown at them. In addition, they are subjected to Covid-19 exposure. He noted they are 23 officers short. "It is hard to find applicants that will do the job for the low wages they make, compared to other counties," noted this union official.

Dayoc went on to complain that the County administration appears to care more about the staff at Gracedale, where there is hazard pay. "Gracedale is getting extra incentives just to pick up shifts and show up." He wants the county to pay corrections officers with some of the $61 million it is receiving from the American Rescue Plan money.

Council member Peg Ferraro, whose grandson is employed at the jail, asked Executive Lamont McClure to respond to Dayoc. McClure conceded the work done by corrections officers [COs} at the jail has been "fantastic." He noted that the county and COs just agreed to a two-year contract extension in which they are getting raises of about 6.5% 7% over two years. During that extension, there's no increase in payments COs must make for medical coverage. He added the county also just resolved a grievance with the union under which each CO will get $500 and, if fully vaccinated by the end of the year, another $1,000. 

Ferraro pressed McClure, noting that employees at one time received step increases every year. McClure said that he is considering restoring more frequent step increases, but at a smaller percentage like 2.5%. He said prior administrations have balked at step increases because they are too large. He said he's been pretty liberal in granting step increases, but "I have to balance the interests of the taxpayers." He said he cares deeply about the COs, and has gone out of his way to get them vaccinated. He said a smaller step increase, which actually has been suggested by AFSCME, "makes it more likely" that employees might see them every year.

 McClure denied that the county pays its COs less than other counties. "We look at that all the time," he said, noting "that when you put it all together [salary plus benefits], we're even or a little better than Lehigh County."

In response to a question from Council member Tara Zrinski, McClure noted that COs did receive hazard pay during part of the pandemic. He added that hazard pay is a "management right. It's not even bargainable." He added no specific request has come to him for hazard pay. 

Council member Ron Heckman cautioned that Council can listen, but really has no say in contracts that are negotiated with the administration. They could be charged with an unfair labor practice if they do. 

In other business, Council voted 8-0 to support a resolution authorizing about $1.8 million to 124 small businesses that had previously applied for mostly $15,000 grants. This will make nearly 1,000 businesses helped by the county during the pandemic. Council President Lori Vargo Heffner said these businesses were vetted and approved last year, "but we ran out of money."

Council member John Cusick questioned three of the grants that went to lawn care companies. He said those were "essential services" and experienced no disruption as a result of the pandemic. Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron said the lawn care companies might be deemed essential, but lost customers who were unable to pay for their services during the pandemic. Cusick was satisfied with that reply.

Council member Kerry Myers was absent from the meeting. 

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good old anti Law Enforcement McClure. More concerned with getting his picture taken for Facebook posts then taking care of the employees that make the county run.

Anonymous said...

Treat your employees and retries with respect.

Anonymous said...

Once again - thank you Bernie for what you do. While I think you may have written this post on your phone while riding your bike - saw 3-4 typos - this article does shine some light on how the sausage gets made in local government.

We as tax payers have elected representatives who need to run our county that has multiple and complex systems constantly at work to provide services to us. It's very easy for village idiots to shout from the sidelines that "Taxes are too high", "Too much waste" or "We need this program" but when you get a little closer to start seeing the details it puts a lot of things into perspective for us.

300,000 residents have a wide variety of needs and expectations on what their local government can and will do for them and a lot of the time those needs and expectations tend to be in direct conflict with each other.

Anonymous said...

@1:10AM - How are you determining from this article that McClure is "Anti-Law Enforcement"? If your local school district gave out 3.25% per year raises to teachers with no additional out of pocket medical costs would you be saying the school board is "anti education"?

Kyle said...

As to the grievance that was settled. It's $500 and then another $500. if you are fully vaccinated. Not a $1000. For being vaccinated.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kyle, Thanks for this clarification. So it is $1,000 total.

Anonymous said...

@1:10 am... your up late Lynch fan. Nice try on the "Anti-Law Enforcement" angle. You forgot to mention the Recovery Act money has $1 million dollars in it for professional fire fighters, EMS and Police. Far from "Anti-Law Enforcement. Get some sleep and try again tomorrow!

Kyle said...

Yes

Anonymous said...

6.5% over two years with no increase in medical is a pretty fair deal, especially if it was negotiated. No fan of McClure, but a deal's a deal. And yes, Gracedale was/is a catastrophe and the reason so many can't have nice things. It's long been a poorly administered money pit and that's never going to change. Everybody loves Gracedale and you may stop making comparisons to anything going on there. Nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

I want a 6.5% raise plus the annual cost of living raise every year
and now i want what the other guy is getting too,
gimmie gimmie gimmie wah wah wah

Anonymous said...

Thats more than we got at gracedale for getting the vaccine

Anonymous said...

McClure toadies' are hard at work writing how great he is. Facts are he is pissed whenever employees request something. He is the King and the peons are to be grateful for what they get. The hazard pay is fair and should be given and not denied over his pride.
The big problem is how many employees are mandated. They will not fill vacancies and are pushing people to their limits. No respect for employees. Hos own lieutenants are hardly there an get huge pay increases. No wonder employees are appealing to the council.

Anonymous said...

It is 7% over 2 years. Add in a very small cost of living raise and for what they do, that is not a lot! I imagine you do not work in a county prison. I do not and would not want to with all they have to deal with. Hazard pay should come out of federal money and they definitely deserve it! Imagine the amount of germs inside before Covid!!

Anonymous said...

County government often pays low wage at hire and used to make up for that with the benefits of pension, great healthcare, great vacation and step plus cost of living raises. This was done to keep employees at the time and worked. Today you can't recruit long term employees with a low starting salary. The pension benefit means less to young people who need the money now to pay their bills. In today's world it is not possible to give 7percent raises to all employees every year. Five percent step and at least 2 percent cost of living. The steps go away and what should happen is a fair competitive wage at hire with merit based cost of living raises. County wants overtime and less positions to avoid the benefit cost and pension contribution. This leaves underpaid workers who are tired ,working constant overtime and who expect both step and cost of living or else they think they aren't getting raises...a two percent raise is a good raise in today's world. Hazard pay or any other extra during covid was a wonderful thing. Now it's time for the county to deal with turnover, open positions and excessive turnover. Pay a competitive raise. Fill positions. Decrease burnout from overtime and treat employees well. Otherwise these issues will never end. Hazard pay doesn't solve the real problem.

Anonymous said...

Starting pay is very low in most areas. McClure/Dertinger wont even consider it. The unfilled positions are huge all over. People being forced to work through vacancies is getting extreme. We were told McClure wants to be sure he will never raise taxes so he will keep vacancies as long as possible. The extra money he has he wants to spread around the county to buy votes.

Employees throughout the county workforce are depressed and upset. Even retirees thought their retiree healthcare would be reset and he is ignoring them and won't even consider it. He may not be as bad as Brown but people feel isn't that great either. Please change thing s so county council can get involved in are concerns.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I would pay attention to the CVOs. They did an outstanding job during the pandemic, while CYF were "working from home" in their vacation houses. The case for hazard pay at Gracedale makes sense to me bc they are required to come into very close contact with people who may be infected with numerous diseases. COs are not necessarily required to do so as part of their job. Thus, I thin hazard pay is unwarranted. I do, however,m completely agree about the salaries being far too low for the work they do and the examples they set for the rest of the county. These men and women are more than just guards - they save lives. They have an ability to treat those who are jailed like fellow human beings. They are quite professional and quite proud. Their accomplishment should be recognized in the form of higher wages and regular step increases. Paying someone hired two weeks ago the same salary as someone who has been on duty for five years is a recipe for bad morale. McClure is slow to grant raises bc he recognizes that the people you work for have been hurt by the pandemic and does not wish to do something that will create a burden. In the case of COs, the public will understand. In the case of the nurses at Gracedale, they will understand. Do the numbers and for God's sake, do a salary study. McClure has established he has been a good fiscal steward. Unlike Bethlehem, he does not raise taxes every 10 seconds. It is time to stop balancing budgets on the backs of employees. I am sure he bristles as he reads this, but that's exactly what has been happening since the days of Brackbill.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a salary study limited to the high turnover non management positions would be prudent. These are the key hands on positions that require an adjustment. But remember without enough staff no amount of money keeps staff. Work environment and satisfaction is important also.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. There was a time when both county and local government jobs were incredibly hard to join. Great benefits with very fair pay for the job as well as a great amount of paid time off. Holidays, Etc. Although most of that still exists, it is this type of horrible leadership that creates very low morale throughout the entire workforce. Low morale creates poor performance all at the hands of the tax payer! Low morale then creates an increase in the amount of turnover which is never good when salaries are paid through tax payers money!

Anonymous said...

Since mentioning the ole Christmas city. One should do such an article on that work environment.

Anonymous said...

I doubt McClure will be upset with you. Your mild criticism is slathered in your usual over the top praise. He is your boy. The fact is he inherited a ton of money form his predecessor. He received a flood of federal cash. He is bragging he will never raise taxes because his people have hidden money everywhere by over estimating costs. He is almost as arrogant as Mr. Dertinger who just walks away from people. McClure should stop running allover the county for every photo op he can get and work on the pay problem. He is to busy giving free money to his pal Donchez in Bethlehem who let shim at his press conferences. Time to change the government in the county.

Somehow your fiscal hero has managed to give his people missive raises in the past four years.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify.....No COLA added in. This is the major problem with everything. So much wrong information.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely correct.

Anonymous said...

Any pay study needs to include review of current job duties, especially of the services of the Developmental Program and Area Agency of Aging. Over the years, in response to directives of state government, many tasks have changed on a local level and so many job duties have changed to become of more of a clerical nature with respect to feeding required data to state and federal funding sources. The need for active case management has lessened with outsourcing of many job duties. I suspect some of the employee dissatisfaction as they are typically employees with education in social work field is related to expectation to be actively "helping" people instead of imputing data and checking monitoring reports. Skills and interests may not fit actual job duties. With respect to "resetting" health care benefits that is one of the factors county employees need to consider when they retire before age for Medicare. I have been retired from Northampton County over 10 years. However, I did not choose to retire before age 65 and have had excellent, affordable insurance coverage for me and my spouse. My pension is excellent. Quite frankly, throughout my 30 plus years of employment I have heard the same complaints about employees feeling undervalued and underpaid. In a recent conversation with a retiree he readily admitted that he was so glad he worked for Northampton County Department of Human Services and has excellent pension and health care and also acknowledged he had been one of the more vocal complainers while employed. During my employment I actively advocated for the best working environment I could have and was a shop steward in the union. However, I never forgot where my "bread was buttered." Although certainly not a Democrat in my leanings, I think McClure has done a reasonable job in balancing the needs of both employees, job duties and especially the craziness of the pandemic.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:22, Everyone is acquainted with the McClure PR machine at the county.