An Update from Human Resources Image

County Labor Relations Bargaining Update

Author: Human Resources
Date: 7/1/2022 3:36:09 PM

Please see below for a brief update on the current County Labor Relations Bargaining process as of July 1, 2022.


It has been a busy year of bargaining given that many of our employee associations’ Memoranda of Understanding (“MOUs” or “labor contracts”) were set to expire on June 30, 2022, or December 31, 2022.  We thought it would be a good time to provide a brief refresher on the general process of bargaining as well as update everyone on what’s been happening on the bargaining front.  

Our intent is to be forthright about the bargaining process, the agreements that were recently reached, what has been happening at the bargaining table, and what is planned for unrepresented staff.  There is a lot of information in this article, but we hope you find this summary or the links to the details worthwhile and helpful.   

THE BARGAINING PROCESS

Labor contract bargaining is an intricate, multi-step process that typically takes months.  Reaching agreement on a fair and attainable labor contract requires compromise and give-and-take from both sides.   

Follow this link for a summary of the process.  We hope it provides a helpful reminder of what goes into reaching a new MOU.

NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE

Last year, the County negotiated new labor agreements with In-home Support Services (IHSS), Probation Association (SLOCPPOA), Prosecutors Association (SLOPA), and Sworn Deputy Sheriff’s Association (SDSA), which left the following employee organizations to negotiate with this year:

  • District Attorney Investigators Association (DAIA) (MOU expiration 6/30/2022)
  • Deputy County Counsel Association (DCCA) (MOU expiration 6/30/2022)
  • Sheriff’s Management Association (SLOCSMA) (MOU expiration 6/30/2022)
  • San Luis Obispo County Employee Association (SLOCEA) (MOU expiration 6/30/2022)
  • Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA) (MOU expiration 12/31/2022)

 

DAIA, DCCA, and SLOCSMA Update

At their June 21 meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved labor contracts for DAIA, DCCA, and SLOCSMA, for agreements starting in fiscal year 2022/23. A total of about 40 employees are represented by these associations. The complete Board item including the approved MOUs can be found here: DAIA, DCCA, SLOCSMA.

Each of the MOUs for these three associations is unique, reflecting the needs and priorities of the association and the financial condition of the County at the time it was negotiated. However, there are similarities in key areas of compensation:

  • Wages: Factoring in added steps and across the board increases, pay ranges will increase on average between 10% and 11.25% over the next three years.
  • Employer Healthcare Contributions (cafeteria amounts): The cafeteria contribution for employee-only still covers more than 100% of the cost of most of the health, dental, and vision premiums. Therefore, the contracts that emerged from negotiations increased the County’s contributions for enrollments of employees and their dependents to bring them in line with the market and considers anticipated annual healthcare premium rate increases.  The cafeteria contribution for employees with one dependent will be increased to $1,300/month by 2025 (SLOCSMA is currently $1,300), and employees with two or more dependents will be increased to $1,625/month by 2025.
  • Pension: No employees covered by these three MOUs will receive a pension increase for fiscal year 2022/23. Various combinations of increase limits or holidays (no increase) apply to all these contracts. All the MOU’s limit ("cap”) the potential pension increases for fiscal years 2023/24 and 2024/25, with variations reflecting the specific priorities of each union.
  • Other compensation increases: Additional increases in various areas of pay or benefits were also negotiated in these contracts to meet the unique needs of the represented members, such as increases to deferred compensation matches, post-retirement medical, career incentives and uniform allowances, and additional money for purchasing equipment.  

The increases in these three MOUs are generally consistent with the increases agreed to in MOUs for SLOCPPOA, SLOPA, and SDSA, that were finalized in fiscal year 2021/22.

 

SLOCEA Update

By far, the largest employee organization is SLOCEA, which represents a total of four bargaining units and about 1,700 employees – over half of the County’s total workforce.  The MOUs for all four SLOCEA bargaining units expired June 30, 2022.  The County and SLOCEA have been negotiating in good faith since March and have met a total of five times to bargain over MOU terms, including wages, healthcare, & pension. Both parties have exchanged several proposals and are continuing to work toward an agreement. 

Although there are currently significant differences in the elements, value, and impact of their respective proposals, the County and SLOCEA are working towards agreements that provide fair and attainable wages and benefits to employees.  The key economic proposals of the County and SLOCEA are summarized below.

 

County Financial Proposals

At the last negotiations session between SLOCEA and the County on Monday, June 27, the County responded to the opening wage and benefits proposal SLOCEA made on June 3. 

  • “Across-the-Board” Wage Increases: The County proposed across-the-board increases for all SLOCEA represented employees of 2% for fiscal year 2022/23, 2% for fiscal year 2023/24, and 2% for fiscal year 2024/25.

  • “Equity” Wage Adjustments: In addition to across-the-board increases, the County presented an “equity” increase proposal totaling about 2.5% of payroll (cost of wages and wage-related costs) for SLOCEA represented employees. Our proposal increases the pay rates of all classifications that are 5% or more below “market” (comparable agencies identified by the County) – these are market equity increases. Our proposal also corrects internal job family alignments, resulting in increases for the affected classifications – these are internal equity increases. Typically, the percent distance between job classifications in a job series is either 10% or 15% - where the pay rate of a classification is out of alignment, the County’s proposal realigns the pay rate.

Over half of all SLOCEA represented employees (about 965 out of a total of about 1,700) are proposed to receive an equity increase in addition to the across-the-board increases stated above, as follows:

  • About 210 will receive an additional equity increase of up to 1%.
  • About 237 employees will receive an additional equity increase of between 1% and 5%.
  • About 498 employees will receive an additional equity increase of between 5% and 10%.
  • About 20 employees will receive an additional equity increase of 10% or more.

Important Fact: In total, the County’s opening wage proposal is about 8.5% of payroll. All employees would receive a minimum of 6% over three years, and many would receive up to 16% over three years.

 

SLOCEA Financial Proposals

SLOCEA’s salary proposal seeks across-the-board increases of 8.35% for July 2022, 5.4% (or the annual CPI growth, whichever is higher) for July 2023, and 5.4% (or the annual CPI growth, whichever is higher) for July 2024. The proposal, as explained by SLOCEA, is based in large part on the high level of inflation we are experiencing.  We have commiserated with the SLOCEA team about this dilemma. However, inflation does not correspond to an increase in County revenues. Instead, inflation increases the price the County pays for goods and supplies and reduces the money available for salary increases. 

SLOCEA has also proposed that a sixth step be added to all SLOCEA pay ranges.  We agree with SLOCEA that there is a benefit to a sixth Step. Indeed, a sixth step, in combination with the proposed equity increases, would bring the pay ranges for all SLOCEA classifications in line with the median of the “market’ identified by the County. We told the SLOCEA team that the County is not closed to SLOCEA’s sixth step proposal. However, we also cautioned that monies spent on a sixth step means less money for across-the-board wage, so we will continue to discuss this issue in negotiations as the other key economic proposals ripen.

In total, SLOCEA’s opening wage proposal is about 22.3% of payroll for the Big Unit and 22.2% of payroll for the Trades Unit over three years.

 

County Health Benefits Proposals

Like DAIA, DCCA, and SLOSCMA above, the County proposed increases for employees with dependents, to bring the cafeteria contributions in line with the market, taking into account anticipated annual healthcare rate increases.

  • The County’s proposal for employees with one dependent is to increase the cafeteria contribution to $1,175/month for 2023, $1,250/month for 2024, and $1,300/month for 2025.

  • The County’s proposal for employees with two or more dependents is to increase the cafeteria contribution to $1,475/month for 2023, $1,550/month for 2024, and $1,625/month for 2025.

  • The cafeteria contribution for employee-only still exceeds the premium costs of the lowest cost plan, but the County also proposes to increase the employee-only amount for Big Unit to $790/month in 2025, and for Trades Unit to $765/month for 2024 and to $790/month for 2025.

 

SLOCEA’s Health Benefits Proposals

SLOCEA’s healthcare proposal seeks increases for all coverage tiers (employee only, employee plus one, and employee plus two or more dependents) that would be commensurate to the overall percentage increase in premium costs for 2023, 2024, and 2025.

  • SLOCEA’s proposal for Big Unit members with employee only coverage is estimated to increase the cafeteria contribution to $833/month for 2023, $879/month for 2024, and $927 /month for 2025. The proposal for Trades unit members with employee only coverage is estimated to increase the cafeteria contribution to $805/month for 2023, $850/month for 2024, and $896/month for 2025.

  • SLOCEA’s proposal for both Big Unit and Trades Unit members with one dependent is to increase the cafeteria contrition to $1,197/month for 2023, $1,263/month for 2024, and $1,333/month for 2025.

  • SLOCEA’s proposal for both Big Unit and Trades Unit members with two or more dependents is to increase the cafeteria contribution to $1,459/month for 2023, $1,539/month for 2024, and $1,624/month for 2025.

 

The Parties’ Respective Pension Proposals

SLOCEA proposed to eliminate the established 50/50 cost sharing that the County and employees have regarding pension rate increases so that employees will not receive any pension rate increase during the term of the new MOU. The County proposed to keep the 50/50 cost share language but has also indicated an openness to reasonable caps on employee pension increases during the term of the MOU to mitigate the impact of rising pension costs on employee compensation.

 

Other Compensation Items

Various other items impacting employee compensation have been proposed by both SLOCEA and the County, including increases to bilingual pay, standby pay, uniform allowances, and other items.

 

Final Observation Regarding County Priorities

Increasing the salaries for classifications that are currently below market, reaching agreement on fair and attainable wage increases and providing increased cafeteria contributions to address rising healthcare costs are high County priorities.  The County’s current proposal for salaries (across the board and equity) and healthcare carries a total cost of about $19 million – an important and worthy investment in County employees.

The County and SLOCEA continue to engage in good faith negotiations and are working hard to reach an agreement on increases to employees’ compensation and benefits. Please remember that the specifics of proposals may shift during the bargaining process as the parties adjust for each other’s priorities.For specific details on these proposals, or if you are curious about the proposals either party has made, please contact your SLOCEA bargaining representative. We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of negotiations.

 

Unrepresented Employees Update

This year is also time for the County to meet with the Unrepresented Employee Committee, which although is not an employee organization, provides input to the HR department on the priorities of unrepresented staff.  The County will be presenting a compensation recommendation for unrepresented employees to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration and approval at an upcoming July Board meeting. Here is a summary of the compensation items that will be recommended to the Board of Supervisors for approval:

  • Wages: The County will be recommending across-the-board wage increases of 3% effective July 2022, 2.5% effective July 2023, and 2.5% effective July 2024. 

  • Equity Adjustments: In addition to the across-the-board increases, the County will also be recommending equity increases totaling 3.5% of unrepresented employees’ payroll for certain classifications with pay ranges determined to be below market, with internal alignment, or recruitment and retention issues. The attachment here shows the specific equity increases for unrepresented classifications.
  • Healthcare: The County will be recommending healthcare increases as follows:
    • The recommended increase for employees with one dependent is to bring the cafeteria contrition to $1,175/month for 2023, $1,250/month for 2024, and $1,300/month for 2025.
    • The recommended increase for employees with two or more dependents is to bring the cafeteria contribution to $1,475/month for 2023, $1,550/month for 2024, and $1,625/month for 2025.
    • Since the cafeteria contribution for employee-only exceeds the premium costs of the lowest cost plan, the County is not recommending an increase to the employee-only cafeteria contribution.
  • Pension Contributions: On June 21 the Board approved a pension holiday (no increase) for Tier 1 and Tier 2 members and a 1% reduction in the employee rate for Tier 3 members for fiscal year 2022/23.  For fiscal years 2023/24 and 2024/25 the County will be recommending that there be no pension rate increases for unrepresented employees in Tiers 1, 2, and 3.
  • Other Items: The County is also recommending a change to the wellness and education reimbursement programs available to unrepresented employees.  Instead of separate wellness and education reimbursements of $200/year and $250/year respectively, these will be combined into one wellness and development program with a total reimbursement of $500/year. The program will also be updated to include additional wellness and educational programs.  The County is also recommending a change to the annual vacation cash-out amount for which employees are eligible. Unrepresented employees will be eligible to cash-out up to 80 hours of vacation each year if they maintain a balance of 80 vacation hours after the hours are cashed out. This cash-out may only happen one time per year.

 

DSA Negotiations Update

The County and DSA are scheduled to begin the negotiations process in July 2022. Stay tuned for updates on these negotiations once they get underway.

 

Conclusion

We hope this article provides helpful insight into the status of negotiations within the County.