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Luzerne County labor unions fearing for members jobs

12.10.13

NOVEMBER 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Luzerne County labor unions fearing for members jobs

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, November 3rd- The labor organizations that represent employees of Luzerne County have been meeting to discuss what employee sacrifices they would be able to offer to save money to help cut into the county’s debt. It is estimated that Luzerne County is more than $400 million in debt and massive layoffs could occur unless unions agree to concessions, including higher contributions toward employee healthcare.

Several weeks ago Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton met with union officials for two hours to begin the discussion regarding the concessions. However, all parties involved agreed to not discuss publicly what was talked about.

Under the Luzerne County Home Rule Charter, the county manager is appointed by the eleven member county council. Therefore Mr. Lawton could be removed for not doing what the part-time council members instruct him to do. Seven votes are needed to terminate the county manager.

Currently, Luzerne County employs approximately 1,400 full-time workers but at least 200 could be cut if changes are not made.

Joe Rowe, Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87, would only for the record tell the newspaper about the meeting between the labor organizations and the county manager, that Mr. Lawton wants to make every attempt to work things out with the unions and try to minimize any lay-offs. AFSCME Local 1398 represents several hundred workers of Luzerne County.

Under the lastest budget plan around 55 workers will be laid-off unless union worker concessions are given and at least 150 more could occur if the county council does not approve an 8 percent tax increase on Luzerne County residents.

The known to be anti-union council members Stephen A. Urban and Stephen J. Urban have stated they will not consider a tax increase.