After more than a year of often tense negotiations between the county and several employee bargaining units, the County Board of Supervisors at its Aug. 7 and Aug. 14 meetings approved memorandums of understanding in steps toward settlement.
The actions involve the Management, Professional Employee, Working Supervisors and Confidential Clerical Bargaining units.
The proposals call for a 2.2-percent base-wage adjustment effective the first full pay period following ratification. The proposals include additional 2.2-percent base-wage adjustments on the first full pay period in July 2019 and July 2020. The agreements would expire June 30, 2021.
Employees represented by Teamsters Local 542 will vote on the proposed agreements by mail with a count set for Sept. 5, according Teamsters official Ruth Duarte, whose union represents some of the affected bargaining units.
However, if the Aug. 14 meeting is any indication, the agreements could face trouble. Three county employees showed their objection to the 2.2-percent proposal saying it’s not enough to cover cost-of-living increases. One asked the board to consider this when thinking about employees.
“It’s a slap in the face for us since it’s a minus for us since we added other stuff (deductions) to our paychecks,” said Graciela Ortiz, an El Centro resident and county employee. “We are asking for a fair living wage. Our money will stay here locally, so the county benefits in giving us a raise.”
In an interview, Duarte agreed that 2.2 percent is not fair to the employees. She said it does not meet the minimum-wage requirement and is not enough to meet the cost-of-living increases employees have had to pay recently.
“The Board of Supervisors should do more on finding ways to bring in dollars that can be allocated for salaries. (The board should) make staff accountable to bring in more jobs, housing and business to bump the economy so that they can allocate monies for a decent and fair salary increases,” Duarte said.
The union’s original proposal to the county was a 30-percent increase for four years beginning July 1, 2017 ending June 30, 2021. Duarte said in her opinion the county was not fair at negotiating in good faith at the beginning. She said they met once in March 2017 and then met again in August of that year.
“After several months, we did begin to move forward and the county finally made an offer with salary increases, but even then it was not enough to cover a living wage,” Duarte said.