Supervisor Jeff Stone called today on the union representing sheriff's deputies to drop what he characterized as a hostile “public information campaign'' and work with the county on hammering out a new labor contract that reduces expenditures.
“We're reaching the end of our rope,'' Stone said. “The new fiscal year starts on July 1. There is no more time for shenanigans and games anymore. Pink slips are going to become a reality.''
The supervisor began the board's regular Tuesday meeting quoting from a
flier distributed by the 3,500-member Riverside Sheriffs' Association which
criticized him and board Chairman Bob Buster for their “misinformation to the
public'' regarding pension reform and other issues tying up negotiations with
“The RSA has begun a public information campaign. I don't have a problem with public information. But when they give facts, they're only telling one side of the story,'' Stone said.
RSA President Pat McNamara told City News Service on Friday that union
representatives were negotiating in good faith and had offered a host of concessions in an attempt to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the county.
Contract talks began on Jan. 5.
“We've tried to bring solutions to the table,'' McNamara said. “Every proposal has come with substantial savings to the county, and all have been rejected by the county.''
But according to Human Resources Director Barbara Olivier, whom Stone asked to summarize the union's proposals, the RSA has offered either impractical or insufficient give-backs during negotiations.
She said the union leadership agreed to deputy furloughs to achieve savings, but the idea was a non-starter because for every patrol deputy taken off the clock, another has to take his or her place, sometimes working time-and-a-half or double-time to cover a shift.
According to Olivier, the union offered to defer automatic wage increases over a two-year period, netting about $5 million in savings to the county treasury. But the human resources chief said the concession would not meet the county's goal of extracting a 10-percent wage and benefit cut from sheriff's personnel.
Virtually every other collective bargaining unit and the Board of Supervisors have agreed to a 10 percent one-time cut over the last two years.
McNamara called county administrators' refusal to accept the union's offers “perplexing'' given the budget gap in the sheriff's department and the growing likelihood that upwards of 500 patrol and correctional deputies could be laid off in the next few months to erase the shortfall.
Sheriff Stan Sniff said Friday that the Executive Office's threshold for general fund appropriations to the department would leave a $30 million to $61 million deficit in fiscal year 2011-12 that he couldn't make up without layoffs.
“Who controls the purse strings? Who sets the priorities? There's one entity -- the Board of Supervisors,'' McNamara said. “We have to place the blame (for the shortfall) there.''
The board is seeking to end its yearly draw-down on reserves, which have
fallen by more than half over the last three years as the county has struggled to balance its budget in the face of double-digit declines in property tax revenue.
Stone acknowledged the RSA had made “modest concessions,'' but said they weren't enough to get the county through its “economic storm.''
He blasted the union for adamantly opposing a “second-tier'' retirement plan for new hires. Changing the pension formula for future deputies could result in millions in savings, according to the supervisor.
“The economic winds have changed,'' he said. “I appeal to the union leadership. Let's be truthful; let's work together.''
Supervisor John Tavaglione said the union's mailers revealed “unprofessionalism'' on the part of RSA management.
“Deputies, you need to know, the RSA is not representing you well,'' he said.
Supervisor John Benoit said the union needed to stop “putting out half- truths'' and “step up to the plate'' in support of financial reform.
Buster characterized the union's behavior as “undermining public safety.''
“Had we had cooperation from the union several years ago, we could've avoided the layoff notices the sheriff was forced into announcing,'' the chairman said.
Supervisor Marion Ashley withheld comment.
The next bargaining session is set for May 20. More information is available at http://rc-budget-labor.com/. --City News Service