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County and SEIU 521 Reach Agreement

Modest Wage Increases and Sharing Health Premium Costs and Retiree Health Benefit Costs
COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, CALIF.—Today, the County of Santa Clara and Service Employees International Union Local 521 announced that they reached a Tentative Agreement this week, which was approved by 85 percent of the union membership Thursday.
At a time when some Bay Area communities have been challenged by workers’ strikes, Santa Clara County and its largest union workforce came to reasonable agreement because both parties ultimately believed in one fundamental principle: Quality public services must come first.
“We are pleased that we were able to reach agreement,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith.  “We value the contributions of County employees.  This contract includes a modest wage increase and now employees will be sharing in the cost of health premiums and contributing towards the growing cost of retiree health benefits.”
“We believe we’ve reached a fair agreement that protects vital front-line public services and we look forward to continuing to work with the county on the challenge of recruiting and retaining a cutting-edge workforce,” said Karen Smit, a Respiratory Care Practitioner who served on the union negotiations team. “Our members' vote to approve this contract is our affirmation that we will continue to put Community First.”
Now that Santa Clara County and workers have reached an agreement, both parties can refocus efforts toward other challenges, including implementing the Affordable Care Act by strengthening Valley Medical Center, continuing to build and maintain a cutting-edge workforce, and making Silicon Valley the best place for families to live and work.
Highlights of the two-year agreement:
·        Workers will increase their contributions toward retiree health care costs $10 per pay period or $260 annually to strengthen the plan's sustainability, bringing in about $2.1 million annually.
·        New workers will have to work for a minimum of 15 years to qualify for retiree health benefit.  A worker hired yesterday would have had to work for 10 years to be eligible for the benefit.
·        To prepare for health care reform, the county will collaborate with SEIU 521 to form Unit Based Teams across the county’s Health & Hospital System, ensuring frontline workers have direct input on the quality improvements affecting patient care.
·        Employees will share the cost of health premiums.
·        To address recruitment and retention issues, two lower steps of the salary schedule will be removed. This will directly help the county become competitive in developing a cutting edge workforce.
·        Members will receive a 2% annualized wage increase in the first year (which is implemented at 4% for a six month period effective December 23, 2013 and is decreased to 2% effective June 22, 2014) and a 3% wage increase in the second year. 
"We came into negotiations focused on preserving and enhancing quality public services,” said wRen Bradley, Chapter President of SEIU Local 521 Santa Clara County. “We knew the only way we could keep Santa Clara County strong was to ensure county services did not suffer. We will continue to do everything we can to develop a cutting edge work force especially as we implement the Affordable Care Act."
The Agreement will go the Board of Supervisors for approval on September 10, 2013.
Media Contact: Khanh Weinberg, SEIU Local 521 (408) 921-0098; Gwendolyn Mitchell,
County of Santa Clara (408) 299-5119
Posted: August 30, 2013