Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors unanimously ratified the agreement reached with SEIU Local 521. The agreement will yield savings of nearly $78.1 million from all County funds over the two years.
“It took everyone working together and wanting to make this happen,” said County of Santa Clara Board President Dave Cortese. “I am proud of the way our employees conducted themselves throughout the negotiations during these very difficult economic times. The tough times are not over, but we are all going to continue talking and dealing with each other with respect.”
“When we use words like respect and dignified, we mean that our employees have been astute enough to understand the difficulty the County is faced with and have stepped up to do their part making tremendous sacrifice,” Cortese continued. “The creative thinking, ideas, willingness to put forward opportunities for the County to take advantage of, to make the adopted budget work, were numerous and in some cases brilliant.”
SEIU Local 521 represents 8,000 of the nearly 15,000 county employees in seven bargaining units. Among them are administrative, professional, clerical, blue collar, public health nurses, environmental health specialists, social service workers and the probation counselor safety employees.
Supervisor Liz Kniss echoed the sentiment after hearing from employee union representatives who thanked the Board for its willingness to listen to their counter proposals for achieving the required labor cost savings.
“The spirit in which you have come to speak with us this morning is so refreshing,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss. “The cooperation exhibited in finding solutions was exemplary. Compared to Congress our employee bargaining teams were fabulous. They demonstrated that when there is the will to do so, it is possible to reach meaningful compromise.”
“Everyone working on these negotiations kept them at a very professional level,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager. “That is why we were able to reach an agreement. We all know that the tough times are not over and it is not clear how the current economic crisis is going to play out.” Yeager continued, “The fact that we have respect for each other and really care about each other will serve us well. Ours is a long-term relationship, one that we want to ensure stays intact.”
“This was my first experience with County negotiations,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman, whose previous experience was at the city level. “What was so impressive, during the meetings I participated in is that the groups came forward with ideas and solutions, not just complaints. At the end of the day, the various contracts were equitable and fair. The economy sucks, but we are all in this together. I was very impressed by all involved.”
SEIU employees will take 10 unpaid furlough days off during the year. Also, County holidays will be reduced from 12 to 8 the first year. New hires will be paid at 10 percent below the current minimum salary for existing jobs. Employees will contribute two percent more of their salary towards retirement, for a total of six percent. Employees will now pay more for health plan copayments, depending on the health plan. Also, for the first time, current employees are paying contributions towards future premiums for retiree health benefit costs. The value of the first year savings is $45.2 million for all County funds. In year two, employees will be required to take four unpaid furlough days and only two holidays are eliminated. The value of the second year savings is $32.9 million for a combined total of $78.1 million of all County funds, including the General Fund.
“We are happy to get a contract today and we are thankful to everyone for that,” said Supervisor George Shirakawa. “But we must not forget that this contract will have a severe impact on employees, especially families at the lower end of the wage spectrum. We can’t forget that.”
“Today is a time to celebrate our fabulous employees. It is a very difficult financial time. It is difficult to have concessions on the table. It is very difficult for everyone to consider the stresses and challenges financially. I want to thank the members of SEIU. They have demonstrated that they care deeply about the services they provide to the people of Santa Clara County. They care deeply about the County, so they came to the table and did their part. For that we will forever be grateful. It is a fabulous team effort.”
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119
Posted: August 9, 2011