ACSO still works to finalize union contracts

Contract negotiations for deputies continue to stall after Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. and his staff met with North Central Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) union officials on Thursday.

Two sticking points include deputies taking ACSO vehicles home if they live outside Alachua County and the 2.5% step increase that was supposed to take effect, according to the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), on Oct. 1, 2021, but was stopped by Watson. 

Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr.

In a press release sent from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) on Thursday, Watson stated that his top priority focuses on increasing starting wages for deputies, offering a 3% raise for all employees in 2021 instead of continuing the current step plan.

Watson said taxpayers expect sheriff’s vehicles to stay in the county to deter crime. His proposal would deny take-home vehicles to employees hired after  April 28 if they live outside the county—except under special circumstances. Current employees would be grandfathered into the plan. 

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The sheriff’s office continues to offer $2,000 annually toward further education, a $500 increase from previous years. However, in April negotiations, the PBA said it would prefer a cut in the education program 

“Our members would be more than willing to give up that increase to the benefit—give up that $500 dollars—to keep the holidays,” Jody Branaman,  PBA President, said at the meeting. “That’s time with their family; that’s money in their pocket.”

Watson did return two paid holidays, Juneteenth and Good Friday, that were taken during the April negotiations. 

After Thursday’s negotiations, the PBA will return to its members for a decision.

“I feel the meeting was successful and productive and remain confident that we will reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable to all parties,” Watson said in a press release. 

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