By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Three “voluntary” county layoffs have escaped mention in recent reports, but they haven’t escaped Teamsters Local 445 Business Agent Sandy Shaddock’s attention.
“We do have a grievance on this,” she said yesterday. “We are trying to get these three jobs restored.”
Four of the county’s seven full-time drivers in the Transportation Department were reduced to part-time last month as a cost-saving measure, said County Manager David Fanslau and Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer.
“The county is getting out of providing direct Medicaid transportation,” explained Fanslau, saying state/federal reimbursement rates made it no longer cost-effective.
“They had reduced the compensation we were getting for that,” said Meyer, and the county was losing upwards of $90,000 a year.
And since other private entities, like taxi companies, were providing such transportation, “it didn’t make sense in the overall scheme of things” for the county to continue, Meyer remarked.
But in the end, Shaddock said it didn’t make sense for three of the four reduced-schedule drivers to keep their jobs either.
While the county planned to maintain those drivers at their full-time pay rate of about $16 an hour, they would have had to contribute 50 percent of their health insurance premiums amounting to $4,163 a year for individual coverage and $9,083 for family, according to Shaddock.
Plus if they were laid off later in the year, they’d only be able to collect unemployment based on their part-time work.
“And they really didn’t know how many hours they’d get to work,” she said.
So three of the four drivers chose to lay themselves off and take the unemployment benefits earned from their full-time jobs.
The matter is now going to arbitration, said Shaddock, who is hoping for a resolution in a couple of months.
She expects the arbitrator’s decision will be in the Teamsters’ favor, though it’s not binding.
“Our lawyer says the language that we have [in our contract with the county] is very strong,” she affirmed.
But if the county maintains its stance, she’s worried about the senior citizens the drivers serve.
“Some of these people have no other community contact but these drivers,” she noted. “Part of the concern is some of that is going to be lost.”
Meyer, however, said two of the three drivers have already been replaced by new part-timers, who will be paid $14.48 an hour. A third position has several candidates, and possibly a few more drivers will be hired, as well, he said.
Shaddock plans to ensure the new drivers meet the Teamsters/county contractual requirements, including a commercial driver’s license and various certifications (the latter of which Meyer said can be obtained on the job).
The drivers will be responsible for making runs to and from nutrition sites and transporting residents to and from shopping and medical trips.
Still, Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew said the original three drivers remain on a “preferred” list if full-time employment opens up again.