KSEE 24 – Strike ends: Fresno County, employees still at odds

By KSEE News Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012
Updated Jan 25, 2012 at 6:53 PM PST

Employess walked off the job Monday, and wrapped up their stand today, hoping the county gets the message that they deserve a fair shake.

SEIU Local 521 says it all started because the county imposed a 9% pay cut. It’s actually more for some, 14% in some cases.

Workers we’ve been speaking with have said all along that they’re willing to take a pay cut to help the county, but it’s got to be fair. Since it wasn’t, SEIU says 2000 workers continued the walk-out a third day.

The county says it’s actually 1500, and that some of those were out of town supporters.

Either way, services were further delayed. The temp assistance office in Kerman has been closed all week. Social workers say abused and neglected children are not getting the attention they need. County Administrative Officer John Navarrette says that’s not entirely accurate.

John Navarrette, C.A.O.: “We’ve been triaging their requests that come in in that unit and are addressing those with the most severe need and immediate need first.”

Lorraine Ramirez, Social Worker: “We all feel that our backs are up against the wall, because we have children too. We have to defend our children and the community.”

SEIU Local 521 members say the delay in services to the public shows their value, and that not just anyone can do their jobs.

Mary Krill, Social Work Practitioner: “We’re keeping our tears back because we want to work for the county, we want to work for social services. We want to work with the kids. Yet we can’t do it without a fair contract.”

Employees head back to work in the morning. Because of the delay, they’re expecting stacks and stacks of paperwork to catch up on.

Services were impacted, but the question is this: was the county impacted enough to budge on the pay cut?

Navarrette: “We’re hopeful that we can resolve this matter and go forward. At a certain point, you got to stop talking and start delivering.”

Both sides will sit down with the Public Employee Relations Board in Sacramento. They’ll address the complaint filed by P.E.R.B., as well as the unfair labor practices complaint filed by SEIU.

County employees are expected back at work tomorrow. Some workers at the juvenile justice facility will begin their Thursday shift Wednesday night.

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