The Board of Supervisors Tuesday will consider whether to impose a less expensive contract on one of the largest labor unions representing Riverside County government workers, or accept a costlier compromise agreement that would settle the matter for the next two years.
The previous four-year collective bargaining agreement with Laborers International Union of North America Local 777 ended in the fall of 2016, and since August 2017, the 7,200-member bargaining unit, which represents building maintenance workers, code enforcement officers, surveyors, office assistants and others, has been deadlocked in talks with county Executive Office negotiators.
The board in December passed on an opportunity to impose the county’s last, best and final offer on LIUNA, potentially netting a fiscal year savings of $3.38 million. The vote Tuesday will put the county on course to proceed with imposition, or opt instead to enter into a 24-month collective bargaining agreement, effective immediately, that yields comparatively little savings to the county.
“The county values its employees and their contributions, but we are unable to sustain continuing escalating increases in LIUNA members’ compensation due to our structural deficit, declining reserves and projected substantially increasing financial obligations,” according to a Department of Human Resources statement on the board’s agenda.
Administrators noted that the average total compensation for a LIUNA-affiliated employee is just under $64,000 a year.
“LIUNA members have received, on average, a 45 percent increase in compensation over the past five years, with a base wage increase of approximately 41 percent,” the HR department stated.
The county’s last, best and final offer, or LBFO, would limit LIUNA members to a “step,” or merit, salary increase once a year, at a rate of 2.71 percent. However, the agreement tentatively approved by the union’s membership last week would automatically move all members into a category that makes them eligible for a 4 percent increase.
The union-preferred contract additionally calls for the county to increase premium subsidies for members’ health insurance plans by $50 to $200, depending on the size of the worker’s family.
The county’s LBFO seeks to end automatic cost-of-living adjustments. However, the LIUNA compromise mandates that if the board approves COLAs for members of Service Employees International Union, Local 721, then LIUNA members will be entitled to the same hikes.
The board in December imposed contract terms on SEIU for a year.
The LIUNA-approved contract creates a “special time bank” that grants employees the ability to use 40 paid hours for any purpose, including extra holiday time. There would be no “cash out” value to the banked time, however, and it would have to be expended during the 24-month term of the memorandum of understanding, or forfeited.
Executive Office staff estimated that under the union-approved agreement, the county would save about $230,000 in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The total cost of the contract would be $9.8 million between now and April 2020, according to the Executive Office.
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