Employees at the Schuylkill County courthouse have been called to vote on their lunch hour this week on a proposal made by the county commissioners to reduce the number of hours they work daily in order to reduce the salary costs in preparation of the 2010 budget.

The question they will be voting is to reduce the work scheduled from 35 hours to 30 hours per week as had been in previously years. This is the major question. There are others, including one of a four day per week schedule, but the courthouse would be open five days as usual, but employees would alternate on the extra day and work only four days a week. This option is not favored by the judges because of the five day court calendar which carries a load of daily hearings.

Employees, who are members of the AFSCME Union, which includes the Recorder of Deeds Office, Controller's Office, Tax Claim Bureau, Assessment Bureau, Election and Registration Bureau. maintenance staff and some workers in the zoning, planning and engineers office, will be voting whether to accept the proposal. Currently the employees in this union have been working without a contract as it expired Dec. 31, 2008, and have been in negotiations throughout the year.

There are two court related unions, Court Related Number One, which includes the court stenographers, adult and juvenile probation department personnell and employees in six judges chambers. Court Related Two, includes employees in the Prothonotary, Clerk of Courts, District Attorney, Sheriff and Register of Wills Office.

AFSCME workers will cast their ballots at noon Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Court Room One and the court related unions on Thursday noon. This will be a one time vote. There may be a legal issue with the court related unions as their contract does not expire until Dec. 31, 2010.

The commissioners have painted a grim picture to the workers telling them if they don't make the concession it could mean layoffs of up to 60 employees. Currently the commissioners are attempting to make up a deficit of $3.5 milllion for next year's budget plus a deficit expected in this year's budget which is currently at $1.3 million but the final figure will not be known until the year expires.