Would you give up purchasing a doughnut and cup of coffee each morning to save the job of a co-worker?
How about 10 co-workers?
Apparently the union representing Essex County would not. And it is wrong on many levels.
Faced with a looming budget shortfall, Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas approached union leaders back in July and asked them to consider concessions to avoid layoffs.
Supervisors asked the local chapter of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) to reopen negotiations in the final year of a four-year contract, and consider foregoing an agreed-upon 4 percent raise in 2012.
The concession would have saved the county $750,000, avoided layoffs and helped control taxes.
But the union dug in its heels, and now 10 Essex County employees will help further pad the county’s 10.4 percent unemployment rate.
Let’s put this in context. A 4 percent pay increase to a county employee making $30,000 is $1,200. After taxes, that is a little more than $2 a day.
But the local CSEA chapter, no doubt fearing it would create a statewide precedent, opted not to re-open talks until mid-January when it negotiates its next contract.
Ten jobs in a county of less than 400 workers was apparently worth the sacrifice.
Let’s hope supervisors do not forget those 10 workers, or the local union’s unwillingness to give during the next round of negotiations.
At the same time, most of the unionized county workers stood behind the decision.
Do Essex County workers deserve raises? Absolutely. They work very hard and definitely deserve cost-of-living increases.
But so do a lot of people. And the reality is a lot of public and private sector workers are having to make concessions in this economy.
Very few workers will be getting a 4 percent increase next year. Meanwhile, the taxing burden to pay public sector salaries and benefits continually grows.
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