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August 17, 2010 at 11:32 AM

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A dose of reality comes to King County government

Posted by Joni Balter

It's a start, a very promising one. Twelve jail corrections captains who work for King County have agreed to freeze cost-of-living increases for 2011. This should be the beginning of a different way of governing and paying employees at the financially battered county.

The Uniformed Command Association voted to waive COLAS for pay in 2011 as a sign of the times and true recognition of the dour budget situation facing the county.

That's not all. A more significant group of employees, the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, has tentatively agreed to reopen a contract and waive cost-of-living increases for 500 county employees for 2011.

Chris Dugovich, president of the council of county and city employees, is to be commended, along with his union, if members vote to approve a tentative agreement. They have until Aug. 27 to return their ballots and be part of the solution.

The trend toward no COLAS is what has to happen in the new -- read, lousy -- economy.

"Our interest is in saving services for the public and preserving jobs for our members, '' said Dugovich. "When a job goes away, it is not likely to come back anytime soon. That hurts not only our members but the residents who depend upon the public services our members provide.''

The union members are in jobs such as District Court clerks, juvenile court detention supervisors, probation counselors,building custodians and hazardous waste workers.

The county is broke. The city of Seattle faces daunting budget cuts. Public employees have to face the same harsh reality private sector employees are grappling with.

Last week, the Seattle Fire Fighters Union Local 27 agreed to forgo its cost of living increase, the second year in a row. This is becoming a trend in local government, a necessary one.

The unions and County Executive Dow Constantine are getting real about the budget and the economy.

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