COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE
Local 620 Submits Last, Best and Final Proposal
County Declares Impasse
November 8, 2013
Local 620′s County Bargaining Team continues to attempt to negotiate our successor agreement with the county. Since April 24, 2013, Local 620′s Bargaining Team has worked extremely hard to craft proposals that would be acceptable to both county members and administration. Local 620′s Bargaining Team has made many adjustments to our proposals, often feeling like we are just negotiating against ourselves. Many of Local 620′s proposals have minimal costs associated with them due to the ongoing economic recovery and in part to recover previously negotiated items that we gave back when the county requested help in balancing their budget.
The county’s continuing rationale for lack of modest salary / benefit increases are that they expect increased retirement costs next year. A large portion of increased retirement costs comes from Safety Units, most of which are still covered under multi-year contracts which will not allow the County to recoup those costs from the Safety Groups. As a result, non-management / non safety staff are being expected to cover the increased costs again. Local 620′s Bargaining Team felt that we had no other alternative than to provide the county with a Last, Best and Final proposal due to the inexplicable lack of movement from county representatives for several months. In fact for most of this year’s negotiations process, Local 620′s team has felt like the county has had little desire to come to a fair contract. This is despite the fact that at both June’s budget hearings and at the five year financial outlook presentation, county financial staff informed the Board of Supervisors that they did not budget for concessions (including the continuation of freezes on step increases) and that they included modest COLA increases in their reports.
Throughout negotiations, county representatives have stated that it is Local 620′s problem that we provided our membership with exceedingly lofty expectations and that our proposals are unreasonable. From the beginning, Local 620′s Bargaining Team has stated at the table and publicly that we were seeking an end to concessions and a modest increase to our wages and benefits.
Our Last, Best and Final proposal was for:
- An end of all concessions for which both sides have a tentative agreement (TA) on; a 2.0% increase per year with a trigger in the second year which states that if the retirement earning assumption rate falls below 7.25% the second year COLA will be forfeited (Management received 3.0% in July).
- A $20 increase per pay period to member’s benefit allowances in the second year due to the fact that since our last increase, the twice monthly dependent health insurance cost has increased by $82.00 for employee plus one and $186.24 for employee plus family. These increases have been fully paid by the employee and the level of coverage has been reduced resulting in increased costs to employees at the point of service.
- Increase to the benefit allowance for Public Defender Attorneys to the same level as all other Local 620 members.
Note: We just learned that management just received a $45 increase per pay period for their Benefit Allowance which brings them to the same level as Local 620′s membership benefit of $236.51, which they have stated is fair. Local 620′s Bargaining Team is seeking the same fairness for Public Defender Attorneys considering that they are still at the reduced rate of $191.54 Bi-weekly.
- We have two other low cost monetary issues like continuation of cash-out options and expanding weekend differential pay for individuals who are scheduled to work weekends.
The County’s proposal for the past couple of months has continued to remain the same which is:
- Three year contract which ends concessions except in year two if the retirement system’s earning assumption rate falls below 7.25%.
- A 2.0% COLA increase upon ratification, 0.0% in the second year and a 1.0% in the third year.
- Elimination of contract language concerning grievances that would require Local 620 to take issues not directly related to our contact to either PERB or Superior Court.
Note: Presently and for as long as I can remember we use the grievance procedure to resolve issues of violation of contract, policies and law due to everyone’s desire to resolve issues expeditiously between the parties instead of bringing in outside influences.
Local 620′s Team has proposed several times to enter into a one year contract, but County representatives have continued to reject this as well.
There are several reasons why your Bargaining Team continues to reject the county’s proposal. The first and most important is that it does not provide for sorely needed minimal growth in salaries or benefit allowances to offset the past 3 years of increased health care costs and Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases, nor does it address any expected increases in CPI for the proposed 3 year term. Their offer does not take into consideration past concessions which provided tens of millions of dollars when they requested our help during poor economic times. Promises were made that the money would be used for Local 620 positions and that we would be compensated when times improve. Meanwhile, the County continues to sit on $5,126,311 of Local 620 member’s money. The County’s proposal also does not take into consideration the reduction of approximately 17% of Local 620′s frontline positions while there continues to be an increased demand for services expected to be provided by public sector employees. This has resulted in unreasonable caseload sizes, increased worker’s comp claims and a strong desire for qualified staff to seek employment elsewhere with employers that may have a higher regard for their hard work and knowledge.
We provided concessions during the bad times when some of the other groups chose not to help due to long term contracts, contract extensions or claims from unrepresented management that they were doing their part by not increasing their already high salaries which were increased due to the 2007 Management class and comp leadership project.
What is Next
Since the County has declared impasse, State Mediation and Conciliation has been contacted to see if the services of a mediator could result in the parties agreeing on a fair contract that has a reasonable expectation of approval from our principles.
If mediation fails then Local 620 can request Fact Finding. AB 646 institutes a new mandatory impasse procedure for negotiations, and it can only be triggered by employee organizations. Under AB 646, if local employers and employee organizations are unable to reach agreement in negotiations, the employee organization (but not the employer) “may request that the parties’ differences be submitted to a fact-finding panel.” The fact-finding process is headed by a three person panel (two “partisan” panel members and a neutral member, typically with arbitration experience). Although the fact-finder can only make recommendations and does not have final and binding authority, he or she will function much like an arbitrator. Only following completion of the fact-finding process may the employer then implement its last, best, and final offer.
Apparently, as an intimidation tactic, there will be no recommendation on the part of the County’s team to the Board of Supervisors to impose a contract on Local 620 members. If we are not willing to accept what they have proposed then they are willing to wait until we are “hungry” enough to accept their proposal. Evidently, this is Santa Barbara County Administration’s view of bargaining in good faith and their views on what constitutes beneficial employee relations. Again, as stated earlier in this document and many times by county representatives, it is the county’s opinion that Local 620 and our bargaining team presented unrealistic expectations to our membership and that is why we are in this situation. We ask that you consider the sacrifices Local 620 members have made in our attempt to provide service to the public, protect our coworker’s jobs, provide revenue to our employer that they continue to use for jails, EOC buildings, pay for Safety pensions and to enlarge their own BOS chambers. Is it unrealistic to expect a small 2.0% raise per year and a minimal increase to assist employee dependent care? Is it unrealistic to expect that the county would keep their commitment to Local 620 members that when times improve that they will make right the raises, benefits and furloughs that we surrendered to the tune of 20+ million dollars in concessions? Additionally, there are savings from unfilled budgeted positions (that they are in no hurry to fill for frontline staff, but willing to fill for supervisory / management positions). Consider the permanent loss of unfunded Local 620 positions, most of which are frontline direct service positions that actually provide the required services to the public and consider the impacts on the remaining staff that are required to pick up their caseloads / work. Is this the unrealistic expectations that Santa Barbara Administration, the BOS and the HR Department are claiming that Local 620 leadership and staff is giving to our membership and their employees? Really?
Local 620 Members: What is needed.
Our primary objective is to stay united in our common goal to achieve a fair contract with your employer that recognizes past sacrifices, increased demands on every county employee, compaction issues and inequities among all county employees in both compensation and sacrifices.
Members need to continue to communicate through office visits, personal emails, phone calls, messages and letters sent on your own time using your own media to your elected representatives of the Board of Supervisors, County Administration & Human Resources. These letters should demonstrate the need both professionally and personally to be fairly treated and compensated for the work that we perform. Sign the petitions that are currently being distributed.
Members need to be willing to escalate their participation in future job actions and continue to demand that the county agree to a fair contract. Even though the elected leaders (BOS) choose to have their meetings when we are at work, we need to utilize our vacation time to attend their meetings. Even if you are uncomfortable with public speaking, please standup and let your elected politicians know your opinion. Attend noon time meetings and rallies to show your support for a fair contract. The way in which the County of Santa Barbara is treating their frontline staff is wrong and your coworkers need your help to make this right.
THIS IS YOUR CONTRACT
YOU ARE THE ONES THAT MAKES THIS COUNTY SUCCESSFUL
YOU ARE THE UNION
TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERNCEBy Bruce Corsaw, Executive Director Local 620