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Deputies expected to spurn deal

Sheriff Bob White's contract offer comes up short on some of the patrol deputies' demands.

Published March 2, 2007


Patrol deputies are expected to reject Sheriff Bob White's contract offer tonight, setting the stage for a public union dispute that could include billboards, letters to business leaders and the waving of signs.

"All we want is fairness," said John Connolly, a labor board member with the Fraternal Order of Police who emphasized that he was not speaking in his capacity as a sheriff's detective. "And it's just not happening."

The quarrel is not about pay. Deputies' demands include professional arbitrators for disciplinary hearings, pre-Medicare health insurance for retirees and the right to use work mailboxes for union messages.

When asked why White wouldn't grant the union's wishes, spokesman Kevin Doll said the sheriff preferred not to argue through the media.

On Jan. 18, White gave the unionized deputies what negotiators said was his final offer. Deputies are to finish voting on that offer tonight.

If the nays prevail and White still won't budge, an outside mediator might have to break the impasse.

If union disputes elsewhere are any guide, the deputies could mount a public information campaign to pressure White to acquiesce. They might picket. But as emergency workers, they are not allowed to go on strike.

In 2003, the Florida Supreme Court gave deputies collective-bargaining rights. Since then, sheriffs in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties all struck labor deals without resorting to mediation, FOP negotiator Paul Noeske said.

Pasco patrol deputies and their supervisors voted in March 2006 to unionize.

Detention deputies at the jail formed their own bargaining unit in July.

The deputies have yet to win a contract.

"We're just going to wait and see what happens with the vote," Doll said.

Connolly had a prediction.

"It's going to be voted down," he said.

[Last modified March 1, 2007, 23:54:30]

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