ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved at its Wednesday meeting a memorandum of understanding between the county and Pennsylvania Social Services Union SEIU Local 668, which represents county fulltime Department of Human Services employees.
According to the MOU, beginning January 1, 2018 and running until the end of 2019, PSSU employees will receive the same health insurance coverage as most non-union county employees and six days of paid sick leave a year.
Human Services employees will receive a 2.75 percent general wage increase in 2018, and will see their salaries increase at the same rate as non-union county employees in 2019.
The MOU forbids the payment of longevity bonuses to PSSU employees starting in 2018, as well as step increases, or pay raises based on how long employees have served in government.
Employees covered under the agreement work for the divisions of Children and Youth, Drug and Alcohol, Early Intervention, Intellectual Disabilities and Mental Health.
Commissioner Percy Dougherty said that the negotiations with the union were tough, but in the end both sides were able to reach an “amicable arrangement.”
Caseworker supervisor Edwin Rodriguez addressed the board, saying that commissioners should seek an open dialogue with Human Services employees, talking with them throughout the year rather than beginning discussions three months before an agreement is hammered out.
Commissioner Marty Nothstein agreed, saying “communication is key.”
In other news, the board approved several agreements with various providers of services to the county-owned Cedarbrook Nursing Home.
Among these was a contract extension with HealthDrive Dental Group to provide dental services to Cedarbrook residents. The contract extension will run from February 2018 to Jan. 31, 2019.
Another agreement was with AdvantageCare, LLC., to provide rehabilitation services to Cedarbrook residents.
The board also awarded plaques to three outgoing commissioners.
Commissioner Thomas Creighton, who has served since 2010, said that it was an “honor to serve on this board” and he has seen the county accomplish a lot during his years of service.
Commissioner David Jones, who has served since 2008, said that as a “poor kid” from the south side of Allentown he could never have imagined that he would have an opportunity to serve on the board.
Commissioner Michael Schware, who began his term in 2012, said that he had learned something from every one of the council members.
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