Published: 11 May 2012 12:18 PM

Riverside County and the sheriff’s deputies’ union tentatively agreed Friday on a four-year contract, nearly a year after county supervisors angered the union by imposing pay cuts and pension changes on deputies.

Agreed to early Friday morning, the proposed pact with the Riverside Sheriff’s Association would also scuttle litigation the association filed against the county over alleged unfair labor practices and a pension-related ballot measure, a county news release read.

County Director of Employee Relations Brian McArthur praised the agreement. “When leaders on both sides of the table are committed to being fair — to taxpayers and to county employees — it makes a world of difference in the quality of the outcome,” he said in the May 11 release.

Association board President Robert Masson said the deal was “fair for both sides … It brings us back on track. I think everyone will be happy with it.”

The association’s members need to approve the deal, something Masson expects will happen. The approval process could take several weeks, the county release read.

If approved, the deal would cap an acrimonious period in relations between the county and the union, which represents about 2,500 deputies and other law enforcement personnel.

County officials in May 2011 declared an impasse in contract talks and imposed a 10 percent overall cut in union members’ pay and benefits. At the time, the county expected the cuts would save $28 million; it’s unclear how much was actually saved.

The union sued to block the cuts, saying the county did not follow its own labor-relations rules. The proposed agreement calls for the union to withdraw its legal challenges, including an effort to require voter approval for public safety pension cuts.

That was a key provision of Measure L, passed by voters in 2010. At the same time, voters approved Measure M, a competing measure allowing supervisors to lower public safety pension benefits without voters’ consent. The county contends Measure M is in effect because it got more yes votes than Measure L.

New deputies would get lesser pensions under the proposed deal.

The contract would allow new hires, once they turn 50, to receive an annual pension equal to 2 percent of their salary multiplied by years of service.

For current union members, the formula remains 3 percent of their salaries times years of service once they reach age 50. Members would have to contribute up to 9 percent of their salaries to their pensions by July 13, 2013.

The “two-tiered” pension system is similar to what the county brokered in contracts with other labor unions. Altogether, the new contracts will save the county $550 million in pension costs over the next decade, the county press release read.

In 2010, the county expected annual pension expenses to rise from $155 million to $306 million by fiscal 2019-2020 if no changes were made.

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