Board Approves Two Union Agreements, Totaling Nearly $60 Million

Board Approves Two Union Agreements, Totaling Nearly $60 Million

Taylor Martinez

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved two collective bargaining agreements totaling nearly $60 million, securing pay raises and making other benefits adjustments for thousands of Riverside County government employees over the next four to five years.

The first contract with the Laborers International Union of North America, Local 777, was authorized in a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Jeff Hewitt dissenting.

“Because our (financial) situation gets worse and worse, I will not be voting for any pay raises,” Hewitt said.

There were no other comments.

The agreement, which is expected to cost taxpayers $40.63 million between now and when it expires in October 2024, covers roughly 7,200 county employees whose last compact was signed in March 2019, according to the Department of Human Resources. LIUNA members include food service providers, secretaries, nurses and custodians.

The agreement specifies that union members will be entitled to automatic raises on May 1 of 2021, 2022 and 2023, with the first two salary hikes being 2%, and the last one 2.5%.

The compact also obligates the county to conduct a “market study” after July 2022 to gauge whether LIUNA-affiliated workers are at or above the median minimum salary compared to workers in similar fields outside of county government. Salary ranges may be adjusted higher, depending on the study’s findings.

Members will also be entitled to an additional 20 vacation hours, automatically applied after January 2022, and they will receive increases in health benefits coverage, according to the terms.

There is lastly a provision that LIUNA members at the maximum salary for their classification receive a lump sum stipend, described in the agreement as a “retention bonus,” totaling $750, which will be furnished next year.

The second collective bargaining agreement approved by the board was with the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, specifically the RSA’s Public Safety Unit, which represents the county’s roughly 550 probation officers.

The compact, with a price tag of $19.39 million between now and October 2025, was tentatively authorized in a 5-0 vote and may still be subject to modification prior to final approval.

Hewitt walked back his earlier assertion that he would not support pay hikes, saying the RSA accord was an exception because “there are more and more people on probation and not behind bars, and it’s a very difficult job (working in probation) to keep people transitioning back into society.”

“But that’s a net gain … So on this one, I’ll be voting yes,” he said.

A law enforcement reform advocate, Avalon Edwards, asked the board prior to its vote to consider using the RSA contract money instead for “direct economic support” to help communities suffering under the public health lockdowns.

“This contract will spend millions of dollars for salary increases and payment cushions for probation officers,” she said. “If the county has funds for constant pay raises for law enforcement officers, it should have money to help people during this crisis.”

RSA President Bill Young told the board that the county is already short-staffed in the Department of Probation, having lost over 150 officers in recent years, largely because of low pay.

“We need to prop up our probation officers for the times to come, as more people are released onto the streets,” Young said.

Supervisor Karen Spiegel agreed.

“If we don’t pay our guys fair, we may not get good officers, and we need law enforcement officers who are good for the county,” she said.

Under the memorandum of understanding, deputy probation officers will be entitled to an immediate salary hike of 4%, with successive increases that total 10% running to the end of the contract in 2025.

Probation officers designated primarily for correctional work will receive similar upward adjustments, only the total will come to 16% over the life of the compact, while senior-level officers can look forward to cumulative hikes totaling 18%, according to the terms.

Officers will also receive an additional 40 vacation hours, and county- funded health insurance  subsidies will go up between $25 and $200 a month.

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