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Jail Guards Give Up Raises

By Erica C. Barnett October 14, 2010

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced this morning that King County jail guards and juvenile detention deputies have agreed to forgo cost-of-living raises in 2011 to help close a general-fund budget shortfall of $60 million. The move will save the county's general fund about $1.5 million.

"This is a strong statement of the public spirit of our employees," Constantine said. "By sharing a bit of the sacrifice, they're making it possible to prevent layoffs at the jail and to maintain some of the programs that otherwise would be cut." The county will not lay off any unionized jail or juvenile detention employees next year; however, it will eliminate positions that have gone unfilled.

The unions represent about 700 county employees, about 500 of whom have access to interest arbitration, meaning that they can go to an outside mediator if they don't like their contracts. Those 500, members of the King County Corrections Guild, would have received a three-percent raise next year; the remaining 200, members of the King County Juvenile Detention Guild, would have received a two-percent increase.

The two remaining large county unions that have not yet accepted wage concessions are the Metro union and the sheriff's deputies' union. The Metro union is currently in full contract negotiations, but its president has said the union will not accept a contract that doesn't include wage increases. The sheriff's deputies are set to receive a five-percent increase next year, part of a five-year raise of 27 percent.

"We're continuing to have conversations with the sheriff's deputies," Constantine said, noting that there are now "close to 8,000 employees who will be joining us in partnership" by not taking cost-of-living wage increases. Of those 8,000, 6,200 are union workers; by not taking wage increases, they've saved the county about $11.3 million, $4.3 million of that from the general fund.

"People need to realize how unprecedented this is and how unlikely a lot of you thought it was that this would succeed."

Asked whether he was, as some have claimed, using the media to put pressure on the remaining union holdouts, Constantine said, "I don't think that that is actually the case. I think we have been very careful to allow the negotiations to go on as required under law."

However, he added, "I have been publicly standing up with those employees who've come for and reached agreements with us to hail their decisions."
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