Contract Negotiations With Athens County 911 Dispatchers Reaches Impasse

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Unable to reach agreement on a new labor contract, negotiations between the Athens County Commissioners and 911 dispatchers are headed to fact-finding July 2.

The fact-finder will hear the positions of each side on the unresolved issues and fashion a settlement. If either side rejects that settlement, the matter then goes to binding conciliation in which a conciliator will decide the contract. By law, employees of 911 cannot strike.

The State Employment Relations Board provides a list of potential fact-finders, from which a person is selected by the two sides.

The 10 fulltime dispatchers in the bargaining unit are represented by the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. County Commissioner Lenny Eliason said talks on a new contract began last fall. Dispatchers are currently working under terms of a contract that expired Dec. 31.

Mark Volcheck, attorney for the OPBA, decline to comment Tuesday on what issues separate the two sides.

County Commissioner Charlie Adkins briefly headed 911 between the resignation of 911 director Scott Warner on May 21 and the appointment May 28 of Dan Pfeiffer as interim director. During that time, the OPBA filed a grievance due to an action taken by Adkins.

According to documents, on May 22 Adkins issued a memo saying that when the 911 scheduler makes calls to find a dispatcher to work a forced shift (when another dispatcher calls in sick, for example), those being called have one hour to respond. When a fulltime dispatcher is called to work forced overtime, the person is required to work it, the memo states.

In a letter accompanying the grievance, Volcheck said the matter should have been part of the current contract negotiations.

Adkins — who has a union background and is former president of the service workers union at Ohio University — told the OPBA that he "deeply believe(s) in the grievance process," but denied the grievance.

Adkins, in the letter denying the grievance, said management has the right under the contract to establish rules.

The next step in the process is to appeal the grievance to the county commissioners. While the commissioners received some paperwork from the union, the commissioners said it did not specifically state it was a appeal, so they did not act on it at their meeting Tuesday.

Volcheck told The Messenger that the OPBA intends to appeal the grievance to the commissioners, and he had thought the paperwork to do so had been filed.