Joe Nelson, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Created: 12/21/2011 10:31:20 AM PST

A union representing San Bernardino County public- safety employees has agreed to labor terms proposed by an arbitrator in June that averts 14 percent pay and benefits cuts to certain employees, the county announced Wednesday.

On Tuesday, 73.5 percent of the 277 members of SEBA’s Specialized Peace Officers bargaining unit, composed of probation corrections officers, deputy coroner investigators and welfare-fraud investigators, voted in favor of the new labor terms.

The new terms include the elimination of the county’s

7 percent pickup of the employees’ share of retirement contributions, a reduction in step increases – annual merit raises – from 5 percent to 2.5 percent, and the union dropping a lawsuit it filed earlier this year challenging the county’s refusal to grant the employees a 3 percent at 50 retirement benefits package common with sworn law-enforcement employees.

“I’m happy with the agreement right now because I think it’s the best deal for the group right now,” said Laren Leichliter, the president of the San Bernardino County Safety Employee Benefits Association, or SEBA, the union representing the employees.

Members of the bargaining unit will get to keep their take-home vehicles and not face an additional 7 percent cut to their salaries, which the Board of Supervisors approved last week after the union declined initial proposals by an arbitrator on two separate occasions, the last being in June.

“I’m not happy with (the county), but it wasn’t anything they strayed from in the beginning,” Leichliter said. “They just followed through with what they said they were going to do.”

The county began collective bargaining with the unit in February and reached two separate agreements with the unit’s negotiators. In October, both sides went into arbitration, but the unit rejected both proposals presented to them by their negotiator, forcing the county to take more aggressive action.

At the last Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 13, the board voted 3-2, with supervisors Brad Mitzelfelt and Neil Derry dissenting, to impose the county’s “last, best and final” offer before the unit went into arbitration. The county took further action by also imposing the 7 percent salary cut and the elimination of take home vehicles to the employees.

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