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Local Business and Labor Issues

After Years-Long Standoff, RivCo Supervisors May Impose Contract On Labor Union

The Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) will consider whether
to impose a less expensive contract on one of the largest labor unions
representing Riverside County government workers, or accept a costlier
compromise agreement that would settle the matter for the next two years.
   The previous four-year collective bargaining agreement with Laborers
International Union of North America Local 777 ended in the fall of 2016, and
since August 2017, the 7,200-member bargaining unit, which represents building
maintenance workers, code enforcement officers, surveyors, office assistants
and others, has been deadlocked in talks with county Executive Office
negotiators.
   The board in December passed on an opportunity to impose the county's
last, best and final offer on LIUNA, potentially netting a fiscal year savings
of $3.38 million. Today's vote will either put the county on course to proceed
with imposition, or instead enter into a 24-month collective bargaining
agreement, effective immediately, that yields comparatively little savings to
the county.
   ``The county values its employees and their contributions, but we are
unable to sustain continuing escalating increases in LIUNA members'
compensation due to our structural deficit, declining reserves and projected
substantially increasing financial obligations,'' according to a Department of
Human Resources statement on the board's agenda.
   Administrators noted that the average total compensation for a LIUNA-
affiliated employee is just under $64,000 a year.
   ``LIUNA members have received, on average, a 45 percent increase in
compensation over the past five years, with a base wage increase of
approximately 41 percent,'' the HR department stated.
   The county's last, best and final offer, or LBFO, would limit LIUNA
members to a ``step,'' or merit, salary increase once a year, at a rate of 2.71
percent. However, the agreement tentatively approved by the union's membership
last week would automatically move all members into a category that makes them
eligible for a 4 percent increase.
   The union-preferred contract additionally calls for the county to
increase premium subsidies for members' health insurance plans by $50 to $200 a
month, depending on the size of the worker's family.
   The county's LBFO seeks to end automatic cost-of-living adjustments.
However, the LIUNA compromise mandates that if the board approves coast-of-
living adjustments for members of Service Employees International Union Local
721, then LIUNA members will be entitled to the same hikes.
   The board in December imposed contract terms on SEIU for a year,
citing insoluble issues.
   The LIUNA-approved contract creates a ``special time bank'' that
grants employees the ability to use 40 paid hours for any purpose, including
extra holiday time. There would be no ``cash out'' value to the banked time,
however, and it would have to be expended during the 24-month term of the
memorandum of understanding, or forfeited.
   Executive Office staff estimated that under the union-approved
agreement, the county would save about $230,000 in the current fiscal year,
which ends June 30.
   The total cost of the contract would be $9.8 million between now and
April 2020, according to the Executive Office.

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