In the midst of pay freezes, some Ottawa County employees are bringing in a middle man to handle business.
Employees at Ottawa County Job and Family Services are one of two departments in talks to unionize. County maintenance workers are also considering a union contract.
According to Commissioner Steven Arndt, the county is dealing with budget cuts, up to 22 percent in some departments, meaning raises for employees are not likely in 2013.
"I think it just goes along with a sign of the times for those of us in local government, especially those in counties," said Arndt. "In these economic times, the work load continues to go up with less people, so it's a frustration."
Arndt said he understands why employees are turning to unions for support. Arndt says the county has had a good relationship with unions in the past, and he expects the same from the unions currently forming.
About half of all Ottawa County employees are union members.
Gino Monaco, Administrator of the Ottawa County Sanitary Engineers Office, said 28 of the 37 employees in his department are represented by "Teamsters Local 20," out of Toledo.
Monaco said unionizing is not always about higher pay. Negotiations in 2011 resulted in a zero increase in wages.
"There haven't been a lot of changes in benefits lately because of the economy and the recession," said Monaco. "The teamsters recognize that in an economy like this, you've got to consider what management needs, what the owner needs, and the days of just running right through a private business or a government to get what your employees want, I think, are over," said Monaco.
Few details are being released in the current unionization process, since negotiations are still ongoing.
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