Not many unions would scoff at a salary increase, but the SLO Deputy County Counsel Association did.
On April 14, SLO County supervisors unanimously voted to end an “impasse” with the union of about 10 fulltime county legal professionals and essentially force a compensation package after talks between the two sides failed. The results of the county-imposed contract: Union members—who previously made an average $199,040 per year—will make an average $204,450 per year, according to Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz.
The last contract between the county and the union was signed in November 1982, and all attempts to redraft it since May 2005 failed. The county’s changes to end the impasse are retroactive for years in which there was no agreement. Under the county’s newly imposed contract, union members received a 1.32 percent increase in salaries, but had to contribute an additional 1.32 percent to their pensions for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Their 2009-10 salaries and employee pension contributions both increased .23 percent.
Union attorney Stephen Silver, who could easily pass for Ralph Nader in looks and speech, said union members vehemently opposed the county’s proposal to tweak employees’ pension contributions despite the county’s proposed salary increase.
“The county was just inflexible,” he said during an unfettered speech that went on much longer than the usual three minutes allotted to public speakers.
According to Silver, union members offered to take a pay reduction but put forward a more desirable pension-contribution plan for members.
“I have no basis—it’s just beyond my comprehension why you wouldn’t accept this gift they’ve offered,” Silver said, adding that the issue would almost certainly end up in court and cost the county and taxpayers more money.
Other county-imposed changes to members’ benefits packages would only be beneficial to younger members, Silver said.
Supervisor Adam Hill noted that starved county revenues will make such conflicts with unions more frequent as the county implements more pension reform.
“This is the beginning of a lot of unfortunate struggles with our unions,” Hill said.