More than two years of contract negotiations between Spokane County and its deputy sheriffs have been put on hold after the county filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the deputies.
The county says the deputies association illegally changed its position on salary increases prior to binding arbitration that was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
The two sides have spent recent months negotiating through a state mediator.
On Tuesday, the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission put binding arbitration between the county and the deputies on hold until the complaint is resolved by the hearing examiner, according to a county news release.
The county contends that the deputies association changed its last bargaining position and is asking for a larger cost-of-living increase.
In going to arbitration, the Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association submitted a position calling for a retroactive wage increase ranging from 2 to 5 percent for each of three years through 2014, county officials said. Their contract expired at the end of 2011.
The county contends that the last negotiated position by the deputies called for a salary increase ranging from 2 to 2.77 percent annually and tied to the Consumer Price Index.
County officials argue the deputies can’t legally back down from that position.
The cost to the county could be as high as $6.5 million if the arbitrator awards a 5 percent increase in each of the three years.
Officials with the deputies association were not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Commissioners said they are working to minimize labor costs across their unionized workforce so they can maintain county services.
The county is scheduled to go to binding arbitration with its jailers on Jan. 15.
State law provides for binding arbitration for public safety unions, which are banned from striking.
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