County: No lifeguards have been laid off

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The union representing four part-time lifeguards at two closed beaches has filed a pair of grievances against Indian River County, alleging the county violated its agreement to keep lifeguards employed at current levels.

The county plans to address the grievances during a hearing Thursday morning, defending the cut in hours to the lifeguards.

“There are no layoffs,” Assistant County Administrator Michael Zito said, explaining that the four lifeguards who were stationed at Wabasso and Golden Sands beaches have seen a decrease in hours but are still part time employees. The beaches were closed due to the beach restoration project the first phase of which is scheduled to wrap up by April 30.

The Teamsters Local 769 has “characterized it as a layoff,” he added.

In the grievance, the union claims “the county violated the collective bargaining agreement by placing four lifeguards…on lay-off and/or unpaid leave of absence and/or unilaterally changed the hours and working conditions.”

In a related grievance, the Teamsters claim the county also breached an agreement made with the union last year. In that agreement, the union gave up 5 percent merit raises — a savings to the county of $473,000 — in exchange for a promise from the County Administration and County Budget departments to not recommend cutting eight to 10 positions.

“The union demands that all bargaining unit employees be paid anniversary increases and lump sum payments as listed…of the collective bargaining agreement,” the grievance states.

The county maintains that no lifeguards were laid off, nor were they put on furloughs, so therefore the county did not breach the agreement.

As for the four lifeguards, Zito said they are scheduled to work between 27 and 36 hours this next work schedule, which is a decrease from the budgeted — though not guaranteed — 32 to 45 hours.

“We’re placing them wherever we can,” Zito said. “We’re trying to minimize the impact.”

The part-time lifeguards are being given the opportunity to fill in for other lifeguards who are taking a sick day or taking vacation time, Zito said. They are are also getting hours at the county’s pools because they are cross-certified for both beaches and pools.

Zito added that the county’s activity pool will open on weekends starting March 6, which should provide even more hours for the part-time lifeguards.

Steve Myer, the business agent for the Teamsters, was not immediately available for comment.

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