Fact finder awards raises to dispatchers

WARREN — Dispatchers at the Trumbull County 911 Center were awarded raises, but efforts by county officials to reign in sick time use and shift some state pension payments to the union members failed.

A fact finder awarded raises of between 35 cents and 41 cents to full-time employees with various levels of experience, backdated to the beginning of 2017 for the 32 dispatchers. Raises of between 30 cents and 62 cents were awarded for 2018, and in 2019 are between 30 cents and 43 cents.

The fact finder found the top paid dispatcher in Trumbull County was making $34,777 a year, compared to an average of $44,256 paid to top dispatchers in Boardman, Austintown and Ashtabula.

The union had requested 50-cent raises each year of the contract at the highest tier of experience, and the county sought 35-cent raises, but wanted new hires to pay their own 9 percent employee share into the state’s retirement system. By law, the county already has to pay an employer share into the system.

The fact finder did not sign off on the county’s proposal because most other safety forces contracts in the area still include the provision the county has been trying to eliminate in order to save money, the report states.

Dispatchers who work in supervisory roles were given a boost in their compensation for the work, adding 15 percent to their salaries, up from 12.5 percent.

The union and the county also sparred about the contract’s sick leave policy. The county sought to reduce the number of sick days from 15 to 10 in order to operate its 24-hour a day operation.

“The county is particularly concerned about what it believes is the abusive use of sick days that are tacked on to the employees’ regular time off. The large amount of sick leave days taken by adding to the regular time off is creating more overtime work than is reasonably needed,” the report states.

The county argues a third of employees also take Family Medical Leave Act time off frequently.

The union argues there is not sufficient evidence to prove the time off is being abused, and blamed the work space for illnesses.

“(The union) acknowledges that illnesses have spread throughout the workforce, but this is due to the physical structure where they work and confined nature of their work spaces and duties, such that the use of sick time is beyond the employees’ control,” the report states.