SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—Today, the County’s labor negotiators provided Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 the County’s best offer in ongoing negotiations over its contract with SEIU-represented employees. SEIU plans to take that offer to its membership for a vote. The County Board of Supervisors and County Executive are eager to reach a positive, sustainable resolution with SEIU, and if the County’s best offer is not accepted, the County plans to propose that the parties seek the services of a third-party mediator to help resolve certain basic disagreements that have hampered resolution of the contract dispute.
The County’s offer includes a 3% general wage increase for all SEIU-represented employees effective upon ratification, with additional 3% guaranteed wage increases each year for the next four years, for a cumulative increase of nearly 16% over five years. The offer also removes the County’s prior request that employees contribute 2% of the premium toward the costs of their health care. In addition, the County’s offer provides significant additional wage increases that would apply to specific job classifications. These are above and beyond the across-the-board 3% per year general wage increase. And there are no changes to the generous pension and health benefits the County already provides to SEIU-represented employees.
County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith provided the following statement on the status of negotiations:
“The Board of Supervisors and County Administration recognize the very difficult financial situation faced by residents of the county, including our own employees. Our employees are the County’s greatest asset. They are devoted public servants who provide critical services to our community every day. The County has proposed significant wage increases designed to keep their salaries highly competitive with those of other public servants in the region, while also protecting the stability of the County budget in the hopes of minimizing the impact of an economic downturn on our critical services and workforce.”
The County is also in the process of bargaining, or will soon begin bargaining, with unions that represent other County employees. “In addition to our SEIU-represented staff, we have 10,000 other critically important County employees. As we bargain with SEIU over wage increases for the employees it represents, we also need to ensure we can provide employees represented by other unions with the wage increases they deserve as well,” added Smith.
The County’s budget is primarily dependent on three sources of revenue: local property taxes, State funding, and federal funding. During the first three months of this fiscal year, the County’s property tax roll growth has slowed to its lowest rate since 2011. The Governor has issued warnings about expected reductions in the State budget, and national experts have warned that a recession is on the near horizon. As a result, the strong budget growth the County has experienced over the last few years is highly unlikely to continue.
“We have to balance our strong desire to increase wages and benefits for our workforce with the need to sustain vital services to the public and to protect those same employees’ jobs. We can’t agree to contract terms that would, over time, require us to make dramatic cuts to services when the economy turns,” said County Chief Operating Officer Miguel Márquez. “I am hopeful that SEIU and its members will accept our latest proposal so they can immediately receive the raises they deserve, and we can all get back to work without further disruptions.”
“We have exceptional employees in Santa Clara County, and we care deeply about our employees’ ability to make ends meet, but we cannot neglect our responsibility to manage taxpayer dollars appropriately in unpredictable circumstances,” said Smith. “We are aiming to maximize the increases we can provide to County workers while taking all competing needs into consideration. That is what our offer to SEIU reflects.”
SEIU Local 521 represents approximately half of the County’s 22,000 employees. Its bargaining team had provided the County’s labor negotiators with a new proposal late Friday evening, which was presented to the County’s Board of Supervisors at a special closed session meeting on Saturday afternoon. SEIU’s latest proposal, though different in structure from previous proposals, continued to call for unsustainable salary increases and new provisions that are operationally infeasible and, in many cases, inequitable to the rest of the County’s workforce.
SEIU’s bargaining team will take the County’s final offer to a vote of its members. If the County and SEIU cannot reach agreement, the County and SEIU will be at impasse, and the parties will likely proceed to mediation to continue their efforts toward reaching agreement on a final contract.
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About the County of Santa Clara, California
The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, the sixth largest county in California. With more than 70 agencies/departments and nearly 22,000 employees, the County of Santa Clara plans for the needs of a dynamic community, offers quality services, and promotes a healthy, safe and prosperous community for all. The County provides essential services, including public health and environmental protection; behavioral health and medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, including Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (Hospital and Clinics), O’Connor Hospital and Saint Louise Regional Hospital; child and adult protection services; homelessness prevention and solutions; roads, parks and libraries; emergency response to disasters; protection of minority communities and those under threat; access to a fair criminal justice system; and scores of other services, particularly for those members of our community in the greatest need.
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Posted: October 15, 2019