County to negotiate with reluctant unions
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/05/2011 06:16:44 PM PDT
High-ranking San Bernardino County employees will see their paychecks shrink later this year, as the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a plan that will ask them to pay more toward their retirement plans.
It’s the first step of a larger plan to ask for benefit cuts from all county employees – something that will require the approval of several unions. Despite at least one supervisor saying Monday he had concerns, the supervisors approved the plan without discussion .
“I think they fully well understand the depth of the problem,” said Greg Devereaux, the county’s chief executive officer. “They know we have very few choices.”
Devereaux said the county is facing a $46 million deficit next year and a $122.5 million deficit by 2014-15, and that one of the county’s fastest-rising expenses is the cost of pensions.
The measure, which will go before the board again in two weeks for final approval, would require exempt employees – mostly high-ranking county administrators, as well as Devereaux and board members themselves – to take smaller annual raises, give up a health benefit that counts toward their pension and pay all of their pension contribution.
The county now pays most of the employee share of pension contributions as well as all of the employer share.
On Monday, Supervisor Neil Derry said he had some concerns about Devereaux’s plan, especially with a so-called “me-too” clause.
The clause would undo the pension changes for exempt employees if other county employees don’t take the same hit. Derry said the language was clarified before Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m still not completely satisfied, but it is what it is at this point in time,” Derry said. “The largest challenge is going to be negotiating with our other bargaining units.”
Indeed, while exempt employees are not represented by a union, all other county employees are. And union leaders don’t sound enthusiastic about the proposal.
“We’ve given a significant amount of money…in concessions over the last two years,” said Bob Blough, general manager of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association. “We’re going to wait and see for right now. We don’t have any intention to do anything at this point.”
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