Tentative agreement in labor dispute; unions aim to ratify

Two weeks after their contract expired, union leaders representing thousands of county workers, from library assistants to Department of Child Support Services staff, have reached a tentative agreement with officials.

The agreement, which came after “marathon” bargaining sessions, was reached about 10 p.m. Thursday, county Director of Human Resources Donna Vaillancourt said.

Both the Service Employees International Union, Local 175, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 829, plan to recommend the agreement to their 3,500 members for a vote the week of Nov. 27, Vaillancourt said.

The county, at the request of the unions that want to present the plan to their membership personally, released no details of the tentative agreement. Union representatives didn’t return calls for comment Friday.

On Nov. 1, hundreds of county workers rallied outside the public hospital to protest what they called the inequitable health benefits being offered to them under the county’s proposal at the time.

Employees at the time said they wanted to overhaul the contract to provide line workers and management with the same retirement health benefits, as they said was the case in other Bay Area counties.

In addition, union members wanted to end a county policy — also apparently unique in the Bay Area — that ties employee retirement health benefits to the number of unused sick days an employee accrues, essentially capping payments after about five years, said contract negotiator Lance Henderson, an SEIU member who has worked in the county’s child support division for seven years.

Overhauling the system, however, could have caused unforeseen increases in contributions from the county as health care costs increase, wreaking havoc on long-term budgeting and resulted in deficits, according to county Assistant Personnel Director Tim Sullivan.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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