Recently a group of probation officers, clerks, administrative assistants and others met with our union representatives to go over Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard’s “last and best offer,” a refrain that was repeated throughout the meeting.
The offer states various increases in pay depending on present salary and occupation. These increases in pay are long overdue, as the clerks in particular are grossly underpaid and the probation officers are not paid a salary that is either consistent with similar counties in size and case load or with the education required to do the job, or occupational hazards of the job.
This is a fact most of us employees signed on for the job knowing and those of us like myself who have been employed by the county for a long period of time have realized it’s never going to get much better. Contract after contract we have been told that the county, “just doesn’t have the money.” Various reasons have been provided for this seeming lack of money. The primary reason we have always been told is the strain of the nursing home, which is no longer a burden.
We accepted this, not happily, but accepted this. We accepted this because we knew signing up for the job the pay was not going to be up to par, but certain elements balanced the lack of salary. These have always been personal days and the ability to save them and cash them in at the end of the year; and longevity pay, which keeps employees on the job, lowers turnover and again helps to assuage the burden of the lack of money in each pay check.
Now Gary Weinard and the county board — with all their financial wisdom and little if any thought to how these changes will affect their employees on a real life, day-to-day, groceries on the table way — will no longer honor these perks.
The buck stops with Mr. Weinard, and I hold him to his position and I assume he stands behind said decision. The county will take away our personal days in number and in the option to cash them in at the end of the year. In addition, the county also will take away longevity from its employees.
The “last and best offer” is a disgrace and they should be ashamed of themselves for the offer. They should be ashamed in themselves and embarrassed this is the best they could do for their employees. They are sneaking into our pockets like a thief in the night. They are taking presents out from under our trees like a thief in the night. They are taking a meager weekend at Six Flags away like a thief in the night. They are taking a night out with the family away like a thief in the night.
I don’t know if the county will get the votes to pass this, “last and best offer”, but I know if this is your best isn’t good enough and if it does pass you’ve accomplished nothing but saved yourselves a few dollars at the cost of the daily well-being of families.
Vance B. Innes is a drug court probation officer for Vermilion County.