San Bernardino County employees oversee the counting of ballots by the San Bernardino County Public Employees Association on Monday.

By Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 05/20/14, 7:05 PM PDT | Updated: 36 secs ago

SAN BERNARDINO >> Dozens of San Bernardino County workers, unhappy with a new contract proposal, expressed concern and hope at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday. The concern: That the county’s fiscal health is coming at their expense. The hope: Fair wages, and a better contract.

It came a day after a majority of county workers voted down a tentative agreement on the proposal. The contract would have meant that the workers, members of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, would pay a 7 percent retirement contribution that has previously been paid for by the county. The contract also eliminates across-the-board raises and would raise health care costs.

“This will cost me $153 per pay period every two weeks and that amounts to a $4,000 reduction in my compensation yearly,” said Steve Gargana, a 15-year county employee from Redlands who works in the Transitional Assistance Department. “… My wife is also a fulltime San Bernardino County employee and this would be devastating for our family if these cuts go through.”

According to results from the SBPEA vote, 2,001 county workers voted yes, and 3,523 voted no. Two groups of county workers — nursing supervisors and managers — did approve of the agreement in the Monday vote.

The matter is expected to go back to the negotiating table, with parties hoping for a resolution to the issue as soon as possible.

Deidre Rodriguez, general manager of the SBPEA, said she could not comment on the matter because the parties are still in contract negotiations.

“I think the public perception is incorrect in that most of us are earning high wages and a lot of high-dollar benefits,” said county employee Kim Hays, an accounting technician in the Department of Public Works. “A lot of our top officials may get that but the workers who come to work day to day don’t get that. We’ve given up our raises to help the county overall, but to also help our fellow workers. We’re just looking for fair wages, so we can purchase our homes, and we can buy groceries for our kids.”

Fellow accounting technician Victoria Marrufo said she is hoping for what she and others say would be a fair contract.

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