Santa Clara County workers vote to ratify contract

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2015

Contact: Darlene Sevilla  (408) 678-3391

Santa Clara County workers vote to ratify contract

Four-year agreement sets county on right path to address public service issues

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Santa Clara’s largest labor force has voted to approve a four-year contract that lays the groundwork for recovery of public services which had faced substantial recessionary cuts in years past.

The tentative agreement, reached on June 30, hours before a planned county-wide strike by members of Service Employees International Union, Local 521, must still be approved by the county Board of Supervisors.

Wednesday’s vote was by the Social Services bargaining unit, which had to do a re-vote because there were concerns that results from the first vote, which ended on July 10, had not been valid. With today’s “yes” vote, it means the master tentative agreement between 9,000 county workers represented by Service Employees International Union, Local 521 and Santa Clara County is now approved and can go forward for the Board of Supervisors’ approval.

“We believe this was a good agreement that will help us recruit, retain and develop a first-rate workforce that the community deserves,” said John Sokolich, a social worker who was a member of the SEIU negotiations team. “There are other key issues that we will continue working with the county to address, such as improving caseload standards for our Social Service workers unit.”

The contract provides for annual wage increases of 4.5% the first year, and 3% annually the following three years, which should help attract potential workers to understaffed departments offering vital services to county residents, and provide some stability to public workers being edged out of Santa Clara County by its high cost of living. At the end of the second year, the union and the county agree to re-open discussions on health care options.

Issues that SEIU members wanted to address during contract negotiations involved:
• 9-1-1 Dispatchers Shortage: Effective May 2015, county implemented mandatory overtime policy to address shortage in dispatchers.
• Public Health Nurse Shortage: Santa Clara County’s PHN-to-resident ratio is among the lowest in the Bay Area.
• Social Services Shortage: According to 2015 quarterly progress report, county’s “recruitment, retention and stability of its social work staff…results in… instability for the children and families in the child welfare system.”
• A looming labor shortage: 2,000 workers will reach retirement age in 5 years.

The union represents workers from an array of county departments including 9-1-1 County Communications (dispatchers), the Health and Hospital System (public health nurses, x-ray technicians, etc.) and Social Services (child welfare workers, eligibility workers, etc.).

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The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide. SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit www.seiu521.org

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