After two months of negotiation, county employees with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Chapter 521 agreed to a contract with San Benito County. SEIU represents about 300 employees in San Benito County, union bargaining member Suzy Caston told BenitoLink.
After refusing the first tentative agreement in September, local SEIU members ratified a revised contract on Nov. 7, with 95% of members voting in favor. The Board of Supervisors approved the contract on Nov. 19. The agreement includes a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA), and a 1.6% equity increase to base wages retroactive to the Nov. 3 pay period.
According to the agreement, the purpose of the equity adjustment is “for the County to proactively address current and existing recruitment and retention challenges with our workforce in advance of the completion of a countywide compensation study.”
The county relies on a class compensation study for employee wage negotiations. In previous comments before the agreement was reached, Caston told BenitoLink that employees didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the county’s compensation study to set new wages. Deputy County Administration Officer Edgar Nolasco previously said the last study was completed in 2015.
The new one-year contract, which ends Sept. 30, 2020, also states that both parties will meet to implement the results of the compensation study within 30 days of its completion.
Other changes include the implementation of a two-level process to pay for certified bilingual translation employees. The first level, which includes oral competency, includes a premium of $80 per month, while employees on the second step, which includes oral and written competency, will receive a $125 monthly premium.
On Oct. 23, Nolasco told BenitoLink the union contract does not affect the annual 5% wage increase that county employees receive when they advance from one of seven promotional steps labeled A-G. He said the increases occur after a performance evaluation, and that it is rare when an employee does not advance a step. Nolasco added that employees in the last step, Step G, do not qualify for a raise.
SEIU members rejected a tentative agreement with the county on Sept. 26 for a 3% COLA and $1,000 cash bonus, with 53% of the members voting against it. The union had previously turned down other offers that included a 2.6% COLA with $300 cash bonus and a cash-only offer. During negotiations, the union was seeking a 3.5% COLA and $1,000 cash bonus.
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