Neall, workers at odds over county jobs Privatization is the key issue


The union that represents Anne Arundel County's blue-colla workers is fighting a move by the county executive to make it easier to privatize county jobs, which members fear would result in layoffs.

Robert R. Neall, the executive, wants to be able to eliminate county jobs after the budget is approved, with only 60 days' notice.

But Joel A. Smith, a lawyer for Local 582 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, argued yesterday that privatization should be discussed only during annual collective bargaining and budget deliberations.

"We're not saying absolutely no," he told the County Council during a hearing yesterday. "What we're saying is we have to create reasonable expectations during the course of a fiscal year. What the county executive is proposing is continual budget-making."

County officials countered that the existing contract language constitutes an outright prohibition on privatizing if it results in a layoff. In the proposed change, the county would reserve the right to privatize "any work it deems necessary in the interests of efficiency, economy, improved work product or due to emergency."

Acting Labor Relations Director Walter N. Chitwood argued that the new provision still requires that privatization proposals be submitted as part of the budget and says that the county will try to place laid off employees in jobs with the private contractor or in another county job.

"I think it's a fairly reasonable proposal," Mr. Chitwood said.

Last month, an arbitrator issued a nonbinding ruling that rejected the county's position, finding that it failed to demonstrate a convincing argument for eliminating the prohibition on privatizing.

The union is also resisting attempts by the county to restructure health benefits outside of the collective bargaining process.

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