Contract negotiations will resume Thursday and Friday between the North Central Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr.’s bargaining team.
The meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) administrative building at 2621 SE Hawthorne Rd., but this time the sheriff’s office has invited the public and media to attend the talks. The meetings will be held in the Patrol Squad Room.
The move to invite media coverage comes after months of contentious talks and a dispute over a letter Watson sent to ACSO employees.
Last month the PBA filed an unfair labor lawsuit against Watson claiming he violated Florida labor laws and has failed to negotiate in good faith. The current CBA expires on Dec. 31 and the two sides remain at a standstill.
Two sticking points include the take-home vehicle policy for ACSO employees who live outside the county and the 2.5 percent step-increase pay raise that, according to the previous CBA, was to take effect for all eligible members last October.
“Now that Watson is facing a lawsuit over his unfair labor practices, he is re-sending our members the very same deal they voted down just a few months ago with the hope that they’ve forgotten how disingenuous the first offer was,” PBA North Central Florida president Jody Branaman said in his March 9 statement.
Watson defended his actions in sending out the letter.
“The purpose of the letter, in the interest of transparency, was simply to inform all employees of the benefits I have worked diligently to get for the employees of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and to reassure my employees that I will continue to support and work tirelessly for them,” Watson said in a statement last month.
The PBA initially filed a class action grievance on March 2 in a letter sent by PBA general counsel Stephanie Webster. The correspondence from Webster indicated Watson’s bargaining team refused a CBA proposal the PBA on Jan. 25 and that Watson’s team would not budge from its position.