Contra Costa Co. reaches contract deal with unions

December 13, 2011 4:34:41 PM PST
To help offset a future budget crisis in Contra Costa County, some of the county's lowest paid workers have accepted cuts to their wages and benefits.

Tuesday could have been the day that county supervisors would have taken the drastic step of imposing contracts with deep cuts on their five biggest unions, but that didn't happen thanks to some last-minute negotiations.

One week after dozens of county workers complained loudly over proposed pay and benefit reductions, the five unions that represent them quietly reached tentative agreement on a new two-year contract that doesn't cut quite as deep.

"It's going to hurt a lot," Rollie Katz with Public Employees Local 1 said. "People in January will be paying more for healthcare and they're going to be paying more for pension and they're going to take another pay cut in July."

Under the tentative agreement, 4,400 employees will accept a 2.75 percent wage cut and increases in their share of both pension and healthcare costs. The tradeoff is that each worker will get an annual $500 bonus to offset those costs.

"They've sacrificed," Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia said. "They've stepped forward and taken a wage concession, agreed to pay more toward their pensions -- all basically to save jobs and to help preserve services."

Future hires would also receive less in pension benefits than current employees.

"At the end of the day under this contract, employees are giving up between 7 and 10 percent in real money," Richard Cabral with AFSCME Local 512 said.

Most of the affected workers make between $30,000 and $70,000 per year. They include custodians, gardeners, road workers, librarians and clerical workers.

Kathy Sinclair has worked for the county for 10 years. She figures the cuts are going to cost her about 10 percent of her take-home pay, or $200 per month.

"I'm looking at what I'm going to have to cut or do without," Sinclair said. "What can I live without that equals $200?"

Besides the five unions, the county has also negotiated concessions from two other unions that represent sheriffs, managers and supervisors. The total annual savings amount to about $26 million per year. The total budget in Contra Costa County is $1.1 billion.


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