Council Confirms Chief Labor Relations Officer
County executive created position with goal of improving efficiency and accountability
Steve Sluchansky interviews before the Montgomery County Council on May 7
A former manager at unions for nurses, teachers and federal employees was unanimously confirmed by the County Council Tuesday as the county’s first chief labor relations officer.
Steve Sluchansky also worked in Montgomery County government between 2011 and 2014 as the deputy director of the Office of Human Resources, where he oversaw relations between the government and the county’s four main unions, and specialized in conflict-resolution work between employees and managers.
In his new role, Sluchansky, 68, will be responsible for negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the four unions and implementing the agreements. The position has a $170,000 annual base salary.
Elrich, who has been accused by some as being closely tied to the unions, created the position earlier this year as part of a government reorganization effort that was aimed at saving the county $750,000 by eliminating five lower-level managerial positions in various departments.
Labor relations activities had been conducted in the county’s Office of Human Resources, but Elrich’s reorganization eliminated that position and moved it into the county executive’s office to increase government efficiency and accountability.
During his interview before the council last week, Sluchansky pledged to take an “interspace bargaining” approach to negotiations, a term he said was coined by Harvard University, and is another way of saying that he hopes to be fair to all parties.
“What the parties try to do is, rather than exchange their position, you try to get to yes and to try what’s truly motivating. Once you do that, it allows you to maybe identify some creative options that you wouldn’t have identified,” he said.
The council on Monday approved a revised contract with Local 1994 MCGEO, the county’s main government union, that gives raises of more than 6% for some 1,200 county government employees in fiscal 2020, with the possibility of additional raises in the future. The original contract, which the council rejected on April 30, would have granted those employees raises of up to 9.4%.
With Sluchansky’s appointment, Elrich has 10 top-level cabinet positions he must fill, including a police chief.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org