Valley News -

Supervisors back off imposing last, best offer on labor union


Last updated 12/11/2018 at 4:13pm

RIVERSIDE - The Board of Supervisors decided against imposing contract terms on a collective bargaining unit that represents building maintenance workers, code enforcement personnel, office assistants and others in Riverside County government, deferring a decision for nearly two months in the hope that a compromise might be reached.

"We thought a deal had been worked out that would be acceptable,'' said Supervisor Marion Ashley, who is retiring at month's end. "I think we're very close to a deal, and I'm confident a deal can be made. We just need to reconcile different sides on this.''

The unanimous vote to postpone action -- until Jan. 29 -- concerning contract terms for Laborers International Union of North America Local 777 was in steep contrast to the board's 3-2 vote several hours earlier in favor of imposing terms on Service Employees International Union Local 721.

"SEIU resorts to Gestapo tactics,'' Supervisor John Tavaglione said. "When you try to sit down and make an agreement fairly, you get results.''

The board's general consensus was that LIUNA higher-ups seemed willing to compromise.

"The all-or-nothing approach won't work,'' union spokesman John Lombardo, a county surveyor, told the board. "You can have good decisions with leadership.''

The board declared an impasse in negotiations with Local 777 in August 2017, after nine bargaining sessions failed to yield progress toward a mutually acceptable resolution.

Representatives for the 7,200-member union are seeking annual pay raises and a continuation of benefits established under the organization's previous four-year collective bargaining agreement, which concluded in the fall of 2016.

County negotiators are seeking concessions that are virtually identical to ones sought from SEIU, with which the board declared an impasse in July of last year.

"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 posted to 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.

Terms of the county's last, best and final offer include an end to automatic cost-of-living adjustments and compensation hikes; elimination of the county's obligation to fund short- and long-term disability coverage, which is set to be transitioned to the State Disability Insurance Plan; and elimination of some medical subsidies that existed under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

There would be limitations on employees' ability to cash in unused vacation time and sick leave, and funding for work-time "union education'' sessions would be abrogated under the county's contract terms, according to HR documents.

Yearly raises would still be available, but generally capped at 2.71 percent per worker, officials said.

They estimated the county would net roughly $3.38 million in savings in the current fiscal year under the terms of the last, best and final offer.


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