ALTHOUGH IT cannot be heralded as a breakthrough, something noteworthy took place this week in Luzerne County's governmental affairs.
A union group signaled it was willing to scale back. Specifically, the county's prison union workers offered to forego 3 percent wage hikes for the year, as per their contract, in order to limit the number of expected layoffs within the lockup.
An estimated 16 union workers are likely to lose their jobs as a result of a recently approved 2012 county budget. The much-debated budget – which includes a 2 percent tax increase – will compel the county's various departments to soon drop an estimated 56 workers. Many residents had called for no tax increase this year, which would have meant shedding more than 100 jobs.
Against this backdrop, union employees apparently have seen the writing on the prison wall and taken the rare step of drawing up a possible concession. For that, they should be applauded. Their willingness to show some flexibility until the county can get on better financial footing deserves praise. Their concern for fellow employees' livelihoods is commendable.
The proposed deal, however, packed too many stipulations to be palatable. Among other things, it would have barred additional layoffs or job eliminations of certain union workers for budgetary reasons through the rest of the contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2013.
The county's interim manger, Tom Pribula, on Thursday indicated the plan was a no-go, although he declined to elaborate on why until county council discusses the matter.
Even so, let's hope the involved parties don't lose sight of the larger development – they've started to explore necessary, if previously taboo, options. Don't stop talking.
Don't start shouting.
The county residents who pay this government's bills – and depend on its services – are counting on nothing less.
The proposed deal, however, packed too many stipulations to be palatable.