Santa Clara County union workers to vote on latest offer

Members of the union representing 12,000 Santa Clara County workers will vote on whether to accept a new wage proposal from the county, which county officials hope will end a rolling strike that has impacted various county departments like roads, parks and social services for six days this month.

County labor negotiators and representatives of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 met Tuesday for the second time since the strike was called on Oct. 2, where the county presented its “last, best and final” offer to the union.

Like its last proposal, the county is offering workers 3 percent raises a year over a five year contract, plus additional salary increases for certain workers. The latest proposal, however, removes a requirement that workers contribute two percent of the premium toward the cost of their health care, according to a county press release.

If union members don’t accept the latest proposal, the county is hoping to take the dispute to mediation, said county CEO Jeff Smith in a phone call Tuesday evening.

“We’re clearly far apart and we really want to resolve this problem,” said Smith. “We think a third party intervening would be helpful in coming to a resolution.”

SEIU presented its own proposal late Friday, which its representatives have declined to describe. Smith said the union’s previous proposal asked for a 16 percent raise over a three-year contract, and described their latest request as “even farther away.”

“The most problematic part…is they’re still convinced there’s money left on the table with vacant positions,” said Smith, who argued that savings from vacant positions are temporary and often used to pay for overtime and other salary expenses. “It’s only one-time [savings] and can’t be used to condition ongoing permanent raises.

SEIU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union called a strike starting Oct. 2 after filing several unfair labor practices complaints with the state, alleging issues including restructuring within the Department of Family and Children’s Services and the relocation of a Family Resource Center in East San Jose to downtown and staffing changes within the department. Striking employees have also cited vacancies in various departments, low staffing levels, and high caseloads for social workers.

The rolling strike hit different departments for six days, before SEIU announced last Tuesday that it would postpone the strike indefinitely light of PG&E’s planned power blackouts. The union hasn’t striked since, but said workers are prepared to return to the picket line at any moment.

Although the union isn’t providing the county with advance notice of strike plans, Smith said he believes the strike will continue on Tuesday with employees at county hospitals.

Check back for updates. 

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