Supervisors, managers and employees not represented by unions will pay 8 percent of their salaries toward retirement

BY DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITER
dgang@pe.com

Published: 15 November 2011 07:25 PM

Riverside County’s elected leaders and management will begin paying their own pension costs in a move designed to save money and show employees that they are willing to lead by example.

Supervisors on a 4-0 vote Tuesday decided to begin contributing 8 percent of their salary toward their own retirement, something they haven’t done in more than a decade.

The plan covers as many as 1,300 employees, including all elected officials, managers and other employees that are not represented by a union. Over the next three years, the savings are expected to total a combined $14.2 million.

“It is a real watershed moment in the county,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Buster said after the vote.

The decision comes as county officials struggle to overcome an $80 million budget gap and as contract talks with employee unions grow more contentious.

County leaders, who are asking union employees to make similar contributions toward their retirements, declared an impasse Tuesday in ongoing negotiations with Service Employees International Union Local 721, one of the county’s largest employee groups, with about 6,000 members.

In a statement Tuesday, SEIU chief negotiator Wendy Thomas praised the board members’ decision to contribute toward their own retirements but said it should have come much sooner.

“Many of them have never paid a single penny into the very retirement plans they are now trying to take from workers such as nurses, social workers, and emergency 911 dispatchers that provide critical services to the citizens of Riverside County,” Thomas said. “If the Board had taken the lead back in March when they first announced their desired pension reform for county workers, they could have already saved millions of dollars.”

Thomas’ statement was released before the county announced the impasse.

Requiring supervisors, management and other non-union employees to pay their own retirement contributions is expected to save the county $2.25 million this year, $6.77 million in fiscal 2012-13 and $5.22 million annually in future years, the county estimates.

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