Union workers vote on contract
By JIM JOHNSON
Herald Staff Writer
Posted: 07/07/2011 01:32:57 AM PDT
As members from the county’s largest employees union wrap up voting on a new contract with pay concessions this week, SEIU Local 521 officials acknowledged the tentative deal won’t save all 97 jobs on the block.
But they say the union expects the county to live up to its end of the bargain and try to find jobs for as many of the employees to be laid off as possible.
Union chapter vice president Diego Quevedo said that because some positions slated for elimination under the county’s 2011-12 budget are funded by state and federal sources, not all can be saved solely as a result of the pay concessions.
But Quevedo, speaking outside a union polling place, said he expects more positions could be saved through the recently adopted state budget and the rest of the workers to be laid off can be shifted to other open county positions. He said the union has done its part in offering an estimated $8million in pay concessions to help save jobs and services.
Union negotiator Justin Light said membership expects the county to show as much good faith going forward as the union has. Light called for the county to immediately begin considering other union-proposed cost-cutting and revenue-boosting measures, including consolidating human resources, reducing contracting for services and raising user fees.
“We hope the county will step up to the plate because the union stepped up to the plate,” Light said.
In a statement, county officials said, “At the present time, we do not know how many positions can or cannot be restored. The County Administrative Office Budget team has begun analyzing both the state budget and the agreements. If there is an opportunity to restore jobs the county will do so.”
Under the proposal, pay concessions by themselves, if approved, could result in saving more than 60 full-time equivalent positions, most of them administrative support jobs. The Department of Social and Employment Services and the Probation Department could have more than a dozen jobs restored under the tentative agreement, while the Resource Management Agency could have a code enforcement officer and a handful of land-use tech positions added back. The county animal shelter would be able to retain two animal control officers slated for layoffs.
Union membership had until today to vote on the proposed new deal, which includes a two-year contract and a 3.5percent employee contribution to their retirement plan, a first for county employees. The contract ensures that single employees still won’t have to contribute to their health insurance premiums, and those with a spouse, dependent or multiple family members won’t have to pay more, considered a key union priority.
Supervisors OK’d the proposed agreement in a special meeting last week, and postponed layoffs until July 16 to allow union membership to vote and for county officials to consider the potential impact of the state budget on the county.
The county’s budget called for a total of 180 layoffs, and the elimination of more than 320 positions.
Jim Johnson can be reached at 753-6753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.