KSEE 24 News: Fresno County employees threaten strike

January 6, 2012

Updated Jan 6, 2012 at 5:44 PM PST

The 9%pay cut imposed by Fresno county equals about $400 less a month for some employees. We spoke with social services workers today about the pay cut.

Laura Basua, Jobs Specialist, Social Services Dept.,: “Bills aren’t going to get paid, less food. I just don’t know. I might be applying for assistance myself.”

Lorenzo Lambaren, Jobs Specialist: “It was forced upon us. We weren’t given opportunity to make a decision and say, you know what, we want to do this. It’s like, life’s hard, you’re going to do it, and that is kind of anti-American.”

Members say the county’s handling of pay cuts is a prime example of unfair labor practices.

Tom Abshere, Director, SEIU Local 521: “A 4% pay cut for an office assistant who is a single mom who makes $22,000 a year is a bigger hit to her budget than a 4% cut to an elected department who makes $150,000 a year.”

SEIU has filed for an injunction to stop the pay cut. Union members say they’ve already voted, and authorized, a strike. But they’re waiting on the Public Employee Relations Board to grant the injunction.
That could force the county back to the negotiating table.

If not, a strike could happen as early as Wednesday.

Abshere: “The county refused to go into mediation. So really our only last two options is have perb get involved. We’re hopeful they’ll do that. We think we have a good case. If they don’t, the only option left really is a work stoppage.”

If a work stoppage were to happen, the county’s administrative office says contingency plans have been developed for each department that would be affected. While SEIU says it is ready to strike, the county says it has not been notified.

The last time SEIU walked out was in 1997 for 10 days. Members say the impact to services would be even greater now if there were a strike. Lines would be longer, and in some cases, clients might not get service. Union members say, it could push some into homelessness.

Fresno county nurses also filed an injuction against the county to stop their pay cut. They will be voting on whether to strike next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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