A little-noticed action taken by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors threatens to cut the pay of more than 80 county police detectives by 5 per cent. The action comes at a time when formerly unionized county employees are watching how the supervisors are going to deal with wages now that collective bargaining with county workers has been ruled unconstitutional.
The pay cut was part of a police adopted by the supervisors June 6 reverting the formerely negotiated wages of police officers, firefighters and some manual laborers (teachers are not part of the county civil service) to the wage scale for non-union county employees.
"Now you know why we need a union," said investigator Ronald Yeager, who has been designated an informal spokesman by the criminal investigators.
Yeager explained, "I think the men in general didn't want a union. You don't want to have to fight with your supervisors in a job like this. You already put up with so much garbage on the streets. We had hoped the county would just leave us alone. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Fairfax County government to show, 'Hey we don't need unions.' But they'll be back fast if things keep going this way."
The action by the supervisors was taken on the advice of the county civil service commission which had been asked by the board to look into "alleged (wage) inequities" in the pay scale of the police department, according to Norman Dobyns, chairman of the commission.
Dobyns said that the commission decided "rather than respond to inequities in only one of the departments, we attempted to adjust all (wages) in all departments." He said it was necessary to eliminate the detectives' 5 per cent pay differential in order to make salaries equitable in the whole county. "It was an attempt to be fair to all the county employees," Dobyns said.
Although the salaries of the county employees affected by the supervisors' decision will either remain the same or increase slightly (up to 2 1/2 per cent), the detectives stand to lose a 5 per cent pay differential they have been receiving for several years.
The investigators were originally given the differential in order to compensate for extra hours they worked when overtime pay was not extended to them. However, since overtime pay is now given to the detectives - as a result of union activity - some argue that the 5 per cent differential is no longer needed.
According to Yeager the 5 per cent bonus means between $700 and $1,000 annually to each detective. The supervisors' action last week would have allowed detectives who are receiving the 5 per cent differential to continue receiving it for only one more year. All newcomers to the criminal investigative until would not receive the pay differential.
According to county personnel director Dale E. Friesz, under the county personnel laws the 5 per cent differential cannot be eliminated without a public hearing.The supervisors apparently were not informed of this prior to their action last week.
Supervisor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield) sharply criticized the staff's presentation of the wage proposal, saying, "No one told us a public hearing would be required first."
The Fairfax supervisors decided last Monday to "hold in abeyance" the pay differential cut, pending a public hearing by the civil service commission.
Board chairman John F. Herrity said he was "concerned about the equity of the detectives' situation. I would be in favor of correcting the situation (if there is found to be inequities)," he said. "I think it's bad policy to give pay cuts to anyone: then you get into morale."
Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) said she was "not interested in creating morale problems, especially with the police department." She said the board's decision to revert to the former pay scale would leave some people "disgruntled. There's no way to satisfy everyone."