County guilty of unfair labor practices

An unfair labor practices complaint against the county has been won by the Island County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild.

An examiner with the Public Employment Relations Commission found that the county unlawfully “skimmed” work that corrections deputies had performed without negotiating with the union.

In addition, the examiner faulted the county for not providing information requested by the union.

The result of the decision is a spike in overtime at the jail and the likelihood that three jail control room operators will lose their jobs, according to Jail Chief Jose Briones.

The disagreement started after Briones created a new position in the county jail to run the control room, which is the room where operators control the doors, do administrative work and keep on eye on live video from throughout the jail.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown explained that the idea was to have the jail control room staffed by people who had lesser training than corrections deputies — and lesser responsibility — and, therefore, could be paid less.

“There was no state-mandated training or certification for working in the control room in spite of serving a critical security and safety function,” the examiner wrote.

The problem was that the work was part of the corrections deputies’ job for decades. Guards testified that working the control room allowed floor deputies to get some relief from the stressful job, while also allowing for a transition period for deputies arriving on the job.

The examiner found that the county’s actions were unlawful and that it should have negotiated the change with the union.

The examiner also concluded that the county didn’t respond as it should have to the union’s information request regarding the control room positions.

Nevertheless, the examiner didn’t award the union attorney’s fees, which it had requested.

The examiner disagreed with the union on one point. He found that the county gave the union ample notice that the position was being created.

Briones said corrections deputies have returned to staffing the control room. He said he gave the three control room operators 30-day notice of a layoff and also notified the union of the intent to negotiate over the issue.

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