Essential County Services Will Continue During SLOCEA Strike

Author: Administrative Office
Date: 11/26/2018 2:01 PM

The County and SLOCEA have agreed that 160 essential employees will not be eligible to participate in a strike, in order to protect public health and safety.

The County of San Luis Obispo and its largest employee union, the San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Association (SLOCEA), have agreed that, to protect public health and safety, 160 essential employees will not be eligible to participate in a strike in December.

SLOCEA has agreed the strike will start no sooner than Tuesday, December 11 and will end Friday, December 14.

“The strike will not jeopardize the health and safety of San Luis Obispo County residents,” said County Administrative Officer Wade Horton. “We are disappointed that SLOCEA members voted to strike rather than accept the two-year increases we offered them this fall. Though we disagree, employees who strike will be treated with dignity and respect.”

SLOCEA represents about 1,700 of the County’s roughly 2,800. This includes clerical employees, utility workers, social workers, and more. At issue is wages and benefits. SLOCEA employees want 2.5 percent base wage increases for this year on top of the increased healthcare contributions and 0.5 percent base wage increases imposed by the County this fall. But County officials say the County can’t afford the ongoing cost at this time. The County instead offered a two-year deal in good faith to SLOCEA in the fall that represented an annual ongoing increase of 4 percent of total SLOCEA payroll and increases to employees’ salaries and benefits, at upwards of $6 million in ongoing costs.

“We have skilled employees who do good work for the community,” Horton said. “We’ve had several years of budget surpluses following the recession which allowed for salary increases – including 12.5 percent wage increases for SLOCEA since 2014 – but the situation has changed, and we must be fiscally responsible. We offered them the increases we could afford this year.”

Despite a tentative agreement between the County and SLOCEA representatives, and a close vote, SLOCEA members ultimately did not accept the offer. But the County could only legally impose one year of changes, not two. Accordingly, the County imposed terms of its first year of the two-year offer, which focused on providing critical relief to employees through increases to the County-paid portion of healthcare to offset the rising out of pocket insurance costs and 

included a 0.5 percent across-the-board base wage increase. The imposed ongoing increases totaled $2.85 million (1.97 percent of total SLOCEA payroll).

The County faced a $3.6 million budget gap this fiscal year, with expenses outpacing revenues. County officials were only able to close that gap by doing the following:

  • Using $1.2 million in funds not spent during the year before (fund balance available)
  • Underfunding capital and maintenance projects at County facilities
  • Reducing General Fund allocations toward road maintenance
  • Pulling from reserves
  • Ensuring that most public services and programs don't expand from the prior year levels unless mandated
  • Enacting a hiring chill to slow down the rate at which County fills vacant positions

On November 16, SLOCEA gave the County notice of an impending strike. On November 21, County officials requested that the State labor agency seek a court order to protect public health and safety in the event of an potential strike by SLOCEA. Now that the County and SLOCEA have agreed on essential employees, the County has withdrawn its request to Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) and a court order may not be necessary.

“Our offer to meet early and start negotiating over FY 2019-20 wages remains open,” Horton said.

For more information, contact CAO Wade Horton at (805) 781-5011 or [email protected].

For more details about this topic, please visit the SLOCEA Strike Information webpage.