Lebanon County employees laid off earlier this year have until Aug. 15 to decide whether they want to return to work thanks to an arbitrator's recent ruling against the county.
The arbitrator said the county violated the collective bargaining agreement with the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union when it privatized its dietary services at the Cedar Haven Nursing Home in Lebanon without involving the union in the discussions.
The county must now hire back the employees by Sept. 15, two months after the arbitrator’s decision. It also must resume operation of the dietary services department at the nursing home and the employees who come back will be treated “as though they have never left their bargaining unit positions,” according to the arbitrator’s decision.
Lebanon County Board of Commissioners Chairman William E. Ames said the county decided at the end of 2012 to outsource the food service at the nursing home to save between $500,000 and $650,000 a year in operating costs.
The move, which took effect Feb. 1, resulted in the layoff of 48 people, he said, and Culinary Services Group of Westminster, Md., took over the operation at the nursing home.
According to the arbitrator’s decision, fewer than half of the laid-off employees went to work for the new food service company; others were reassigned at Cedar Haven and others were “terminated.”
Union members who want to return have until Aug. 15 to alert the county, officials said. Until then, there won’t be an official count of how many employees will return to work. Ames estimated about five to 10 will be looking for their jobs back.
“We’re speculating it will be a very low response,” Ames said. “Some have found other jobs, others have retired.”