County Supervisors adopted a resolution Oct. 20 approving the collective bargaining agreement between the County of San Benito and SEIU Local 521, resulting in a 2 percent wage increase for represented employees.
“We have reached a collective bargaining agreement,” said Ray Espinosa, the county's chief administrative officer. “There are a few highlights to this agreement: a $25 signing agreement; a two percent wage increase in 2016; cash-out available to employees for vacation accruals.”
Georgia Cochran, interim human resources director, said the agreement is for two years, which she said would give some “labor peace.” She said there will be a significant savings by moving retirees who are “Medicare aged” to the 70 percent contribution status.
“For the first time in several years there is a salary increase of 2 percent next October,” she said. “That’s a positive step for our employees for their welfare, as well as for recruiting and retention. The thing that has been significant is healthcare. This provides the ability for the board to make a choice of healthcare providers in the future, beginning in 2017. As a result of the CalPers increases what we’ve done is provide the ability for employees to cash out on a one-time basis up to 25 hours vacation in January and July 2016, to help them pay for the health insurance premium increases.”
Cochran said a smaller, but non-the-less important item is the boot reimbursement has been “tied down” to those who actually need it.
“This moves from a taxable payment to a reimbursement,” she said. “So employees are not taxed for what they spend on the boots.”
If there is a grievance on compensation, it automatically now moves to Step 3, Cochran said.
“What that does is give you consistency across the county, so don’t have a compensation grievance being handled in a department one way and a different way in another department,” she said. “It would come to a human resources office for resolution in conjunction with the CAO’s office.”
Michael Silverman, vice president of the San Benito Chapter of SEIU 521, thanked the supervisors for moving the agreement forward and recognized the hard work that went into it.
“It’s a lot of work and responsibility to represent approximately 220 workers,” he said. “We had a lot of heated discussions, but in the end it worked and we got a great agreement. I want to thank the community. During our rallies we had members from Hazel Hawkins, the nurses, who showed up in our support. We also had members from the City of Hollister and their works. That was a huge development for us and the county. It showed we were united and we’re all willing to move forward together.”
He said the agreement puts money back in the workers’ pockets.
“It helps stop the bleeding for most of the workers when it comes to healthcare increases,” he said. “And it gives me something I haven’t had in four years, a wage increase. It helps with moral and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Silverman reminded the board that 81 percent of the members approved the agreement.
“For me, that’s a mandate,” he said.
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