Settlement not likely in Lyon County employee contract

YERINGTON - Contract talks for Lyon County employees likely will move into arbitration after a key negotiating session Monday failed to produce an agreement.

Salary and insurance issues have stalled negotiations for several months between Lyon County and the Lyon County Employees Association. The employees association has 60 members among the 125 employees eligible, excluding the Sheriff's Department and court employees.

Both sides are close to handing talks off to a fact-finding process, the Nevada equivalent of arbitration.

"I will talk to the team and see if there is any room in our position or any way to get the county to move," said John Kidwell, a consultant representing the employee association. "I would say the chances are good we will not settle."

The union seeks a three-year package increasing wages 5 percent the first year, 4 percent the second year and 3 percent the third year. LCEA originally asked for a one-time 10 percent raise, Kidwell said.

The association also objects to county demands that employees pickup future increases in employee insurance. Lyon County now pays the full premiums for employees.

"The insurance issue is a big holdup at this point," said Karen Steele, the association's secretary and a management assistant in the county Human Services Department. She said the union has found county governments generally pay for insurance coverage.

Steele added that 26 employees had to drop insurance for family members because of a 45-percent premium increase this year.

Lyon County Manager Steve Snyder said he was disappointed a negotiated agreement has not been reached after nine months of negotiation. The contract that ended June 30 is still in force.

"We're still hung up over salary increases and insurance," Snyder said. "I can't say much more."

The county and association have already rejected one list of five potential fact finders supplied by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Both sides now appear ready to reject a second list since neither side can find a suitable name, let alone one to agree on.

"Neither of us is thrilled with the lists," Kidwell said. "We'll talk about an alternative."

The county and association may use an independent fact finder not supplied by the mediation service.

The fact finder rules on the issues established by a three-person panel composed of two members from the State Bar of Nevada and the Nevada State Board of Accountancy and a third person chosen by them.

As with the fact finder, the county and union will select Bar and Accountancy members from lists supplied by those organizations.

It's illegal for government workers to strike in Nevada.

"We're just asking for fairness for the employees," Steele said. "This was an opportunity for the county to express appreciation for our hard work."

Steele said salary disputes stretch back into the 1980s when Lyon County financial problems led to the formation of a union in 1989 that evolved into an employees association in about 1993.

"During the lean years, employees went with no raise at all," Steele said. "We were willing to sacrifice during the last contract (three years ago). We agreed to a 3 percent raise each year and they told us they were in worse shape than they thought. We agree to 3 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.5 percent."

Both Steele and Kidwell point to the $1.65 million expansion project at the Yerington Court House as an example that money is available to meet the association's requests.

"Given the fact that the county is spending tons of money with buildings, the prefer to do that than take care of the county's employees," Kidwell said.


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