Government Pay, Benefits, being pared back.


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There is growing evidence that unionized government employees are not exempt from the ravages of the current recession as well as the public backlash regarding their pay and benefits. Here are a few reports I have seen that seem to show government employees are not as insulated from today’s realities as some might think – though I am sure some will say that a lot more movement is needed to cut the pay and benefits of public employees:

First, Detroit Police. They have ratified a new contract that reduces pensions, freezes wages, eliminates cost of living benefit increases and will put officers hired after July 1, 2012 into a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k). This is as reported in the Detroit News on August 3, 2011.

Second, Santa Clara County, California workers. A new contract negotiated with SEIU that covers 8,000 workers in this Silicon Valley county requires 10 furlough days the first year, 4 in the second year. Secondly, these workers will see their retirement paycheck deductions rise from 3.9 percent to 5.9 percent. The newspaper article reporting this (San Jose Mercury News, August 3, 2011) quotes a manager’s union representative as saying these cuts represent between $ 400 and $ 600 per month less in take home pay.

Next, Napa County California’s new contract with SEIU, that county’s largest union. This contract seems to be a mixed bag. It establishes a new retirement tier, 2% at 60, for those newly hired, while current employees maintain their 2.5% at 55 plan. Interestingly, this new contract also increases some employee costs for health care coverage while providing for a 1.5% raise in each of the next three fiscal years, according to a story published in the August 11, 2011 Napa Valley Register.

Then there is the New York State employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, that has approved a new 5 year contract expected to save the State $73 million the first year from wage and benefit reductions. According to a August 16, 2011 story published in the New York Times the Governor has a goal of saving $ 1.6 billion over 5 years from concessions from all state unions, this contract being but one of several to be addressed.

Back in California, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has approved a new pension plan for all Deputy Sheriffs hired after September 4, 2011. This brings the county to having 87 percent of the county’s workforce in a new retirement tier plan. The new tier, which moves to 2.7 percent at age 55 for non-safety member employees will base retirement pay on the pay of a three year average, whereas the old tier based it on the highest year’s pay, according to a story posted on August 2.

In Contra Costa County, California, the San Jose Mercury News reported on August 22 that the county and its midlevel managers’ union have reached an agreement that will generate $5.1 million in savings from a 2.75 percent wage cut, higher worker pension contributions, a cap on health insurance and a new less generous retirement tier. On the other side of the equation, the contract grants an additional 3 days of paid administrative leave.

In Amador County, a small county north of Sacramento, county workers represented by SEIU agreed to a furlough program that is equal to a 10 percent salary reduction, resulting in a 36 hour workweek. This action is credited in a story printed in the Ledger Dispatch newspaper on September 9 with avoiding the layoff of 17 county workers.

Then, closer to home, the County of Santa Barbara continues on the path of completely reversing several years of pro-union pay and benefit decisions by reaching a new agreement with its SEIU chapter that cancels a scheduled 2.7% wage increase, freezes merit increases, prevents employees from cashing out up to 40 hours of accrued vacation time, eliminates the county’s extra contribution to the employees’ retirement plan, and provides for a 40 hour mandatory furlough each year. This according to a story in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal on September 15.


About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.