The Ottawa County prosecutor recently made a plea to county commissioners for raises for non-union workers.
The workers, including 10 full-time people in his office, have not received raises in four years. “They’ll be going on their fifth year without raises,” Prosecutor Mark Mulligan said in a telephone interview this week, reiterating what he told county commissioners Steve Arndt, Jim Sass and Mark Stahl during his office budget hearing.
Commissioners are expected to make a decision when they determine the 2013 budget prior to the end of this year.
Workers from some offices such as the sheriff’s office, sanitary engineering, engineer’s office and Riverview Healthcare Facility fall under the union umbrella. Yet, even within those departments, a number of administrative and management team members haven’t gotten raises either, Mulligan added.
He said some of unions have had wage freezes in recent years but noted those union contracts also offer other compensation such as clothing allowances, shift differentials and longevity pay that non-union workers are not privy to in their daily operations.
“I don’t begrudge the union workers the money they get. I think that’s great. They’re entitled by their contract. But I also think that there are others in the county who need to be recognized.”
Mulligan said his proposed $811,000 budget for 2013 is basically “cut and dried” with little fat to trim. Three aspects largely make up the prosecutor’s office funding, including general fund money, federal and state Victims of Crime allotments and revenues from delinquent real estate cases.
The prosecutor, however, offered up $15,000 from the office’s Furtherance of Justice Funds as well as $23,000 from the elimination of a part-time employee position to the commissioners. He suggested the money be put toward one-time bonuses for the county workers.
Mulligan said he broached the idea of non-union worker raises during the elected officials meeting this fall, which was also attended by commissioners.
Soon after, commissioners re-emphasized the county was still operating on a pretty tight budget. So instead of entertaining the possibility of raises, commissioners voted to compensate workers with giving them Monday, Dec. 24 off, allowing a four-day weekend for the holiday, according to Arndt.
“Let me emphasize, I am not seeking a raise for elected officials,” Mulligan said. Those salaries are determined by state statute. “We haven’t had a raise in four years either. And if the state legislature doesn’t act, we may be going another four years without them.”
But being under the auspices of a union contract does not guarantee a raise either.
Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said his administrative team is among those non-union workers who haven’t gotten a raise.
Still, the deputies in corrections department, road patrol and dispatch unit who are unionized have gone without raises for the past two years.
“They’ve gotten zero the last two years,” the sheriff said.
The third year of the contract contains a wage re-opener clause. The unionized deputies are ready to enter into negotiations soon, the sheriff said.
“I think pay raises are necessary. I think that it’s something that the employees earn,” Levorchick said. “But I do totally understand the commissioners’ side. I guess I see both sides.”
And of course, after four years with no raises, the issue starts to affect morale, Levorchick said.
The prosecutor agreed and said he was glad to step up on behalf of the workers.
“I think it might yield results. We have a new commissioners’ board in January. But I am confident this group of commissioners will do the right thing,” Mulligan said.