Deputies Dispute New Contract - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Deputies Dispute New Contract

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A contract feud between the Yellowstone County Sheriff Deputies and county officials has resulted in deputies voting to authorize a possible strike.

Employment contract negotiations between the sheriff deputy's union and the county, started three months ago and since then, several issues have been brought to the table. Both parties have struggled with agreeing on different terms in the contract.

According to Yellowstone County Commissioner, Jim Reno, the majority of the deputy's contention with the county's final contract offer seems to mainly concern time off.

"If you're a sheriff deputy and you worked overtime, we want to pay you for your overtime. But then we would like you to come back to work your next shift," said Reno.

Reno says the current set up gives deputies the ability to use compensation time, allowing them to either come in late or take a day off after working over their regularly scheduled hours; which Commissioner Reno says can cause a problem. "It results in fewer deputies on the street. Because they are choosing to stay home and use their over time in the form of time off as opposed to compensation."

But Quinton Nyman, Executive Director of the Montana Public Employees Association, which is the union representing the Yellowstone County Sheriff Deputies; says contract issues relating to time off is a very small piece of the puzzle. "There's also changes they've proposed to clothing allowance, to shift differential pay, the grievance process. They want to be able to extend the one year probationary period beyond the one year."

For the purpose of maintaining public safety, deputies do not wish to strike; so another plan has been put into place.

"Our deputies made a proposal to give away their right to strike for binding arbitration. Which means if there's a negotiation dispute, that a third party comes in and settles the agreement for both parties," said Nyman.

Deputies put forward a request Thursday morning to hire that third party fact finder; beginning a process that may not see a resolution until early next year.

Nyman also says contract issues such as these are common. He says out of the last fourteen Yellowstone County Deputy contract negotiations he has been involved with, both parties rarely agree; but ultimately find common ground and implement the new contract.