Union leaders for one fifth of Hillsborough County employees negotiate rights for workers

12/29/11 Janelle Irwin
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Union leaders for many Hillsborough County employees want to change the process by which employees are disciplined. Negotiations on behalf of those employees continued with county management this morning.

One fifth of Hillsborough County employees are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME. Union leaders want to include language in the employment contract that would clarify and guarantee the rights of those employees to have union representation during an investigative interview. The county feels it’s unnecessary to add to the contract because it’s already in policy.

Union leaders are also requesting that county protocol for dealing with grievances filed by employees mirror the standards union representatives are held to. That would require county staff to respond in a timelier manner.

Helene Marks, chief administrative officer for Hillsborough County agreed in principle with a union request that would give employees two extra days to file a grievance.

Due to ongoing negotiations AFSCME’s regional director, Hector Ramos, would not comment. Marks and other county staff declined to be interviewed. The next round of negotiations will be on January 20.

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[Tampa Florida Hillsborough County] Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank was not happy with our editorial last week opposing legislation allowing her agency, along with 21 others, to opt out of Civil Service Board Service. Our big worry is the return to patronage. Without checks and balances, we believe friends and family will be first in line for county jobs. Ms. Frank counters that she has an anti?nepotism poli...cy that is stronger than Civil Service’s and her policies are open to the public for all to see. Her policy isn’t that easy to see. It’s not on the Internet; it’s on their intranet, so no one can easily see it. Her nepotism policy isn’t even in the employee handbook, which she sent to me. The policy is given to applicants and was difficult to find. It is the State’s policy with an expanded definition of what constitutes a relative and there is plenty of room to declare that the relationship causes no conflict. We are glad the Clerk of the Circuit Court has an expanded policy, but our concerns don’t end there. We believe that if agencies are left to their own means for recruitment, diversity will suffer. That means fewer Hispanics and Blacks will be hired. Ms. Frank has 674 classified employees. Classified employees are recruited and screened by Civil Service Board Service. The skills necessary for their job are quantified and coded by Civil Service. Out of the 674 classified employees, 55 percent are minorities, with 32 percent Black and 20 percent Hispanic. The Clerk has 62 unclassified employees. These are employees recruited by the Clerk’s Office. She can hire and fire them at will and basically pay them anything she wants. These are the highest paying jobs. Only 24 percent of these unclassified hires are minorities, with 13 percent Black and eight percent Hispanic. These numbers are far below the county’s population. The Clerk’s Office, when left to its own devices, hires 50 percent fewer minorities than it does when working within the Civil Service structure. Legislators such as Janet Cruz, Betty Reed, Darryl Rouson, and Arthenia Joyner should be concerned with supporting any bill that would allow county agencies to opt out of Civil Service. "LaGaceta" Editorial by Patrick Mantiega 10-18-13