COUNTY OF SANTA CRUZ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE

NEGOTIATIONS WITH SEIU LOCAL 415

March 21, 2006

 

 

1.                  What do the County and the Union agree on as of today?

 

The County and the Union have reached agreement on 27 items in the current contract negotiations.The list of Tentative Agreements is available on the County website.

 

2.                  On the remaining issues, what was the Countyís last offer, what was the last offer made by the Union, and how are they different?

 

There are currently three outstanding issues.

†††††

a.††††† Medical:On March 8, 2006, the County accepted the Unionís proposal on Health Care.That proposal is as follows:

 

 

Monthly payment by County

Percentage of the Premiums covered by the County

Monthly Payment by Employee

Percentage of the Premiums covered by the Employee

Employee

$404.23

95%

$21.28

5%

Employee + 1

638.25

75%

212.75

25%

Employee + 2 or more

829.73

75%

276.58

25%

 

The Union has not yet signed the Tentative Agreement on Health Care.

 

b.†† Equity Increases:The County and the Union have reached agreement on 15 equity adjustments.In addition, the Union has indicated that other equity adjustments should be undertaken.The County believes these outstanding issues can be resolved.

 

c.Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA): The February Consumer Price Index for the S.F. Bay Area region, which includes Santa Cruz County, is currently 1.8%.The County proposal includes a 2.5% COLA now and an additional 2.5% in one year.The timing and the amount of the COLA are still outstanding.

 

1.                  Why are negotiations taking so long?

 

The County and the Union began negotiations in July 2005.A tentative agreement by the Union and the County was reached in September.After the membership rejected the proposal, the County made repeated attempts to meet with the Unionís bargaining team but the Union was not available to meet until November.In December, the Union elected new officers and the Union was once again unavailable to meet with County negotiators until late January 2006.At the same time, the Union requested the State mediator be replaced which took additional time to accomplish.In March, the Union replaced their lead negotiator. Since then only two meetings have occurred.††

 

The Countyís Negotiation Team has been ready and available at all times during the last ten months to negotiate.

 

2.                  Why arenít talks going on now?

 

The County provided the Union with its last, best and final offer on March 8, 2006.The Union has not yet responded to the County with their written last, best and final proposal or any counter proposal.The County is willing to meet at any time.

 

3.                  How does Santa Cruz Countyís proposal compare to other Counties?

 

The County of Santa Cruz compares itself to the Counties of Monterey, Santa Clara, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Marin and Sonoma.A study would be required to determine where the County of Santa Cruz ranks in relation to these comparison Counties.However, based on the Countyís last proposal and a review of the Unionís main issues, Santa Cruz County ranks approximately in the middle in Salary, Health Care and Retirement.Four Counties are higher and four are lower.Santa Cruz County is not last in any of these categories.

 

It should also be noted that while comparing Santa Cruz to other Counties is a useful guide, there has never been agreement between the Union and the County to remain at the average of these comparison Counties.

 

4.                  Why is the Union saying County employees have taken a 4% pay cut?

 

In 1994, the Union requested a new enhanced retirement program and agreed that the employees would pay for the costs of the program and that the Countyís contribution for retirement would be capped at a certain dollar amount.The County agreed and implemented this enhanced benefit in 1994.It wasnít until July of 2005 that the increased costs for retirement exceeded the cap by 4%.At that time, employees first began to contribute to the cost of their negotiated enhanced benefit.

 

5.                  Does the County have a surplus at the end of every year?

 

No.The figures used by the Union to say there is a surplus refers to the fund balances that remain at the end of each Fiscal Year on June 30th.These funds include reserves and those funds that are included in the budget for the next year and used to pay for continuing expenses, including salaries and benefits.It is similar to the balance in your checking account at the end of each month. The money that is left over at the end of the month is used for expenditures in the next month.

 

6.                  What are essential employees and why are the County and the Union in disagreement about them?

 

During a strike or other labor action there are some positions that are essential to health and safety. These essential employees include Child Protective Service Workers, those who provide supervision to residents in Juvenile Hall, hazardous material emergency responders, cooks in the jail, and sewage treatment plant operators.†††††

 

On September 9, 2005, the County and the Union agreed to a list of essential employees who would continue working even if there were a strike or other labor action.An order identifying the essential employees was issued by the Court.In that order, SEIU agreed that it would not encourage essential employees to join any concerted work stoppage including strikes, work slow downs or sickouts. The Court Order identifies about 200 of the 1,800 SEIU employees as essential.

 

7.                  Is the essential employees Court Order valid?

 

Yes.Some have stated that due to the death of the Judge who signed the order, the order is no longer effective. Court orders survive the death of a Judge and only a Court can change an order.

 

8.                  What about the pay of the Supervisors?Is it true that they are at the top of comparison Counties? What about their pay increases?

 

As of March 7, 2006, the Santa Cruz County Supervisors are 12% behind the comparison Counties.They have not received a Cost of Living Adjustment since February 2004.The Union looked at hourly wages for Supervisors in other Counties but not at the total compensation for these positions.

 

9.                  How much do the workers lose when a strike occurs?Is this the same amount as the savings to the County?

 

The workers in SEIU lose approximately $365,000 per day of lost work.However, this only represents a marginal savings to the County since the County loses reimbursements from State and Federal sources due to the failure to provide services to the public.

 

The average SEIU employee earns $54,662 per year not including benefits.†† A strike would cost the average employee $210 per day.