Balto. County, AFSCME agree to contract

Baltimore County has reached a three-year labor agreement with AFSCME Local 921, whose members had been working without a contract for more than a year.

The new contract guarantees no furloughs or layoffs through 2016. It also provides employees a 3 percent bonus in November 2014 and a 3 percent cost-of-living allowance increase in July 2015.

The union represents more than 740 employees, including truck and snowplow drivers and heavy-equipment operators.

AFSCME members were without a contract since July 2012, when the previous pact expired and the county and union had not come to an agreement. Under the new deal, employees who were on the payroll as of last October will be reimbursed $250 each for a clothing cleaning allowance, which they did not receive while working without a contract.

"Ideally, we would have reached an agreement a year ago," union President Norman Anderson said Monday. "We're locked in now for three years, so we don't have to worry about this for a while."

Members approved the contract by a vote of 127-58.

When the contract expired last year, the county ordered Anderson to return to his regular county job with the Department of Public Works, revoking the full-time union leave that was included in the previous labor agreement. Being absent from the AFSCME office made it difficult for the group to communicate with members, Anderson said.

"It's hard to tell somebody that you have union representation when there's no one there to answer the phone," he said.

The county has recently reached agreements through 2016 with labor groups representing workers that include public-health nurses, paramedics, firefighters and members of the Police Executive Corps.

"I am very pleased every time we reach an agreement with one of our labor organizations," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement. "But I am particularly pleased that we reached a new agreement with AFSCME. Many of the men and women in AFSCME are those who pave our streets, remove our snow, and repair our water and sewer systems."

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