Proposed action by the Schuylkill County Commissioners to create three new management jobs was criticized by a union official who represents certain county employees as the proposal came at a time when employees were to vote on taking a 14 percent pay cut by approving reducing the weekly work hours from 35 to 30 hours.

Guy Wiederhold, staff representative of District Council 39, AFSCME, which represents employees at Rest Haven Home and Hospital and those who work in the Recorder of Deeds, treasurer's office, assessment bureau, tax claim bureau and planning commission at the courthouse, told the commissioners it was a difficult task the commissioners asked him to tell his union people to accept their proposal for the the shorter work week and take a 14 percent pay cut while they were creating three new positions and rewarding management personnel with pay hikes.

Employees who are members of the AFSCME Union and two court related unions were to vote Wednesday and Thursday on approving or disapproving the commissioners proposal. (The union rejected the reduced hours. See story in today's edition.)

The commissioners told them the alternate solution is to reduce the work force by 50 to 60 people in order to balance the budget being prepared for 2010 which at this state shows a deficit of $3.5 million. The county also faces a deficit for this year. At the end of September it was $3.1 million.

Discussed at the work session held Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville was to create three new positions and eliminate three. The plan is to create a position as assistant county administrator in charge of fiscal operations and eliminate the position of budget anaylist and purchasing manager. Paul Straka, of Shenandoah, who held the position being eliminated would be named to the new position and his salary to be increased from $46,884 to $52,745 per year.

The position of Risk Manager was being eliminated and a new position created to be known as Human Resource Director and Risk Manager. Martina Chwastiak, West Brunswick Township, who held the position as Risk Manager, will assume the new duties and her salary is increased from $48,860 to $52,745 per year.

The position of payroll administrator is being eliminated and the new position created will be known as payroll administrator and assistant risk manager. Heather Garrity, who was the payroll administrator, will assume the new duties and her salary to be increased from $31,361 to $33,271 per year.

All three commissioners defended the proposed action. The vote to establish the new positions will be made at the public meeting of the commissioners next Wednesday and the salary board will meet to fix the salaries. Since the three commissioners are the majority of both boards the action is expected to pass. The controller, Melinda Kantner, sits on the salary board.

Commissioners Mantura Gallagher, Francis McAndrew and Minority Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier all defended the action for the proposed changes. They explained they are combining positions which will save the county more than $50,000. Wiederhold argued that the county wants its employees to do more for less money while rewarded management people with pay increases for doing more. He told them he didn't believe this was appropriate.