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Deputies agree to contract

PORT ORCHARD — The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department Guild voted Friday to accept a tentative contract agreement worked out last week with the county, ending nearly a year of contentious negotiations.

Eighty-one of 141 deputies voted by secret ballot, with only one deputy voting against.

“I’m not surprised this was passed,” Guild president Mike Rodrigue said. “The conditions are appropriate and fair, but it’s a two-way street.”

Added Kitsap County Labor Relations Manager Rob Gundmundson, “This was a compromise. Neither side got exactly what it wanted.”

The agreement includes a retroactive 3 percent salary increase beginning in January 2006 and a yet-to-be-determined automatic cost-of-living increase in January 2007.

The insurance plan offers full coverage for deputies but requires them to pay 10 percent of the cost of their family’s medical bills.

Since this is a two-year contract, negotiations for the next contract will begin in a year, since they generally commence six months before the contract is scheduled to take effect. Both sides expressed hope that the next contract will not be as protracted and difficult as the past two negotiations.

Neither side, however, predicted smooth sailing. Rodrigue said this agreement was identical to one proposed by the union and rejected by the county earlier this year. Gudmundson said the process was slowed by the deputies’ unwillingness to schedule follow-up meetings.

And neither side trusts the other to act in good faith in the future. Each side has filed an unfair labor practice action against the other — the Guild in 2005 and the county in 2006.

Both actions are now pending. When these actions get to the head of the queue, the respective plaintiff can then decide if to proceed.

“We only met in person once this year,” Gudmondson said. “We have responded quickly, but there have been long lapses when the deputies didn’t respond to our proposal.” 

The family insurance rate was one of the biggest sticking points, with deputies pointing to the stress of their jobs as a reason for full coverage.

The county disagreed, with Gudmondson saying, “We wanted to get them as close to the county standard as possible. But if we contribute 100 percent, they do not feel the cost-of-living increases that everyone else does.”

While both sides have agreed in principle to accept the agreement, it could take several months to ratify. After ironing out some last-minute sick leave details, the county will send the final agreement to the Guild’s attorney.

Upon his approval, the matter will return to the county commissioners for final approval in a public meeting. Law requires such agenda items to be scheduled two weeks in advance.

Rodrigue called the county commissioners’ approval “a rubber stamp,” and said he was relieved negotiations have ended for the time being.

“It’s not a fun thing to be negotiating all the time and be constantly bargaining,” he said. “The system is devised to allow labor and management to work out the issues, but we have a county that has a hard time bargaining.”

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