SEBA Makes Contract Concessions

(September 14)  The union representing San Bernardino County’s sheriff’s deputies and district attorney’s investigators has voted to approve a new contract that institutes a set of concessions on benefits and salary levels enjoyed by the officers.
The vote brings to a close a more-than-yearlong effort initiated by county chief executive officer Greg Devereaux to rein in public safety employee costs  as part of a strategy to limit current and future deficit spending by the county.  It is projected that by 2016, the county will sustain an “institutional” annual deficit of $130 million, meaning that contractual commitments to employee unions for salary and benefits will create a circumstance by which the county will take in $130 million less per year in revenues than is required to operate county government. The concessions made by the union, while substantive, were less far-reaching than Devereaux had previously sought. The reduced projected cost to the county under the deal eliminates for the time being the threat that Devereaux would impose on sheriff Rod Hoops a mandate to lay off a significant number of his deputies.
Sworn members of the sheriff’s department up to the rank of lieutenant and investigators with the district attorney’s office are represented by the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, known by the acronym SEBA. In a 681-91 vote of the rank and file, a proposal to have the union’s members accept five concessions was approved.  Those concessions included having the officers accept paying into their own retirement plans a sum equal to 4.72 percent of their yearly pay, which until now was being defrayed by the county; reducing previously granted 5 percent raises to 2.5 percent; giving back one percent of what the county pays into their medical retirement trusts; a reduction from 100 hours to 50 hours the compensation time union members can cash out annually; and having all new hired union employees accept a retirement plan that grants them the right to retire at the age of 50 and receive two percent of their highest yearly salary times the number of years they have worked with the county. The acceptance of the latter provision will create two classes of employees, since current union members are eligible to retire at 50 and receive three percent of their highest salary times the number of years they have worked with the county.
In accepting those terms, SEBA members sidestepped the imposition of the “last, best, and final offer” approved by the county board of supervisors in June, which called for a 4 percent pay cut and the elimination of compensation time.
The union members did wring from the county one additional perquisite, namely having each member’s annual leave increased from 40 to 60 hours.

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