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Talks between labor union, county break down

Posted: October 31, 2013 5:18 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2013 5:18 p.m.
 

Negotiations between Los Angeles County officials and a union that represents more than 55,000 county workers broke down this week, raising the specter of a strike that could include social workers, librarians and nurses, among others.

The parties in the dispute are the county and the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents employees in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties.

For months, union and county officials have been meeting to hammer out a deal to renegotiate a bargaining contract that expired Sept. 30.

But those talks broke down Tuesday.

Now SEIU 721 members are in the process of voting on a strike authorization at more than 100 locations across the county.

That vote is expected to end Saturday, at which point union leaders will determine if membership supports a strike.

If that is the case, employees who work in libraries, public works, mental health and public health, parks and family and children’s services could all begin striking in the coming weeks.

“We will show the county that we are prepared to take all necessary action to bring economic security to our families, and we will not accept a pay cut,” reads a post on the union’s website.

The county offered a 6 percent pay raise over the next 18 months to members of SEIU 721 before talks broke down, according to officials.

David Sommers, a county spokesman, said that similar offer has been made to, and accepted by, other county bargaining units.

“This offer is the same offer that has already been accepted by a majority of the county’s other major labor groups, including sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, lifeguards, the district attorney and others,” Sommers wrote in an email. “A 6 percent raise is what the county can afford at this time coming out of the most severe economic recession in generations.”

But SEIU officials said the county is insisting on increasing health care premiums for workers that would be greater than the offered pay increase, actually resulting in a decrease in the total amount of compensation for workers.

Many county employees have not received pay raises for the past several years as a result of the recession.

“After five years of sacrifice for the county, we cannot accept a pay cut,” said Linda Dent, vice president of SEIU 721 and chairwoman of the union’s Bargaining Policy Committee, in a news release.

SEIU 721 officials said the union hopes to raise pay for low-wage workers who contract with the county, ensure wage increases for middle-class county workers, reduce case loads for the county’s social workers, strengthen the Rideshare program to encourage public transit use and carpooling, and close a “loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying property taxes.”

The median pay for county workers is around $43,000 a year, according to estimates.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

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