As of 4 pm Friday, contract talks between the County of Orange and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs have reached an impasse. Deputies had until then to accept the county’s last, best and final offer, on a new contract after almost two years of talks. THeir answer was no thanks.
The sticking point is apparently how much the county is willing to pay in salary increases to offset deputies paying 100 percent of their employee share of pension contributions. In their last contract agreement from 2009, deputies agreed to pay 6 percent of pay towards the employee share of pension costs phased in over several years. While Supervisors are standing firm on their demand that deputies immediately start paying all of their employee share of pension costs, they are unwilling to offset those increased employee costs with a salary bump to cushion the blow. While on average the hit to deputies is an additional 10 percent of pay, individual deputies could end up taking a hit to their take home pay of almost 20 percent.
Voice of OC reports today:
Adding pressure to the negotiations is the reality that the county must balance its budget with $73 million less than it had previously, because supervisors lost a legal fight with Gov. Jerry Brown last year over property tax revenue.
The supervisors’ largest bargaining chip is the fact that the county now pays the equivalent of more than 60 percent of a deputy’s paycheck to the pension system each year.
Deputy union officials counter with the argument that other jurisdictions are in hiring mode, and if county officials force such a hard deal on the union, they will lose their best deputies to other places and have to spend large amounts to recruit and retain.
They point to the myriad problems faced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which recently confronted allegations that softening recruiting standards has attracted deputies with less than stellar backgrounds.
Impasse doesn’t mean an end to discussion. Rather, the next step may be for an outside mediator to meet with both sides and try to reach an agreement. The county reached impasse with its largest bargaining group representing more than 10,000 workers, represented by the Orange County Employees Association, earlier this year. An independent mediator proposed a compromise that was accepted by both sides in March that runs through June 2015.