91.8 ° F
Full Weather
Sponsored By:

County Negotiations With DSA Reach Impasse

Sponsored by:

Sonora, CA — It appears that a mediator will have to step in regarding contract negotiations between Tuolumne County and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association.

County Administrator Craig Pedro says after six bargaining sessions, spread out over four months, the two sides have officially reached an impasse. The county proposed a 7% pay increase for sworn in members, but many law enforcement officials would be forced to pay into their benefits packages for the first time. The County states that the average compensation allocated for those designated as safety members within the DSA is $99,777. The average compensation for misc. employees, such as booking clerks, dispatch, etc. is $66,275. 

Members of the DSA have argued at recent Supervisors meetings that compensation is not competitive with surrounding counties, and it poses a risk to public safety because the positions can be difficult to fill.

Included below is a four page memo that was released by CAO Pedro this morning outlining the final proposal put forth by the county. It is followed by a letter that was submitted to the county as public record about a little over a month ago from the DSA explaining the organizations concerns about public safety.

Tuolumne County Media Release from CAO Pedro:

The County of Tuolumne announced today that it has reached impasse with its Deputy Sheriffs Association (“DSA”) during contract negotiations. The labor contract expired on June 30, 2013, and the parties have been unable to reach agreement after six bargaining sessions held over a period of four months.

The DSA represents 123 current employees working as Deputy Sheriffs (including Corporals, Sergeants, and Detectives), Jail Deputies (including Corporals and Sergeants), Bailiffs, DA and Welfare Fraud Investigators, Probation Officers, Dispatchers and Jail Booking Clerks. The average annual compensation package, which includes the County’s contributions toward retirement and health benefits, is $99,777 for safety members and $66,275 for miscellaneous members of this unit.

The DSA did not accept the County’s Last, Best and Final Offer, which among other things, includes a proposal for:

• a 7% general wage increase for sworn members of the unit
• employees hired before March 13, 2011 would begin contributing for the first time toward their retirement benefits
• cafeteria plan benefits of up to $17,487/year (the DSA has proposed that the County pay 100% of all health care premiums)
• overtime payments based on time actually worked over a two week period (currently overtime is paid based on time worked or while on vacation or other paid leave)
• increased flexibility for the Sheriff to assign personnel in a cost effective and efficient manner

The County has been in bargaining with all of its labor unions to help alleviate a structural deficit caused in part by the Great Recession. All unions have been asked to help, so that the County will not be forced to consider cutting additional services.

“The County and its Board of Supervisors greatly respects all of its employees, including the hard working personnel represented by the Deputy Sheriffs Association,” said Craig Pedro, the County Administrative Officer. “We are hopeful we can eventually reach an agreement with the DSA. This is an important year for the County, as we are trying to emerge from some tough economic times, and we are determined to place the County on a sustainable future course.”

The next step in the process could include mediation.

DSA Impasse Information

1. Background

a. The Great Recession has caused significant reductions in County government revenues and budgets for the past several years

b. Multi-year forecast models have been used to predict future impacts on the County budget and proven to be good indicators of future trends

c. Consistent with the most recent forecast model, the actual FY 2013-14 shortfall was approximately $2.5 million

d. An informational forum was held on this year’s budget forecast with all union leaders

e. Informational forums were also made available to all County employees
i. 6 out of 123 or 5% of DSA members attended
ii. 250 out of 580 or 43% of all County employees attended

f. Options considered to address this year’s shortfall included:
i. Straight budget cuts
ii. Labor concessions
iii. Combination of budget cuts and labor concessions

g. Budgets cuts alone would cause additional layoffs of County employees and reductions in services to the public

h. The FY 2013-14 Recommended Budget assumes the $2.5 million shortfall would be addressed by a combination of budget cuts and labor concessions

2. Bargaining Process

a. Department head education and input on bargaining – this included specific discussions related to public safety departments

b. Board education and direction on bargaining

c. First bargaining session with the DSA requested on March 12, 2013

d. First bargaining session with the DSA held on April 8, 2013

e. Six (6) bargaining sessions with the DSA to-date

f. The County has not previously commented publically on bargaining because we respect the confidentiality of the bargaining process

3. Current Compensation Package

a. Components of Pay:
i. Base Pay
ii. Merit Step Increases
iii. Overtime Pay: All forms of leave (e.g. vacation, holidays, bereavement, and CTO) excluding sick leave, are used to calculate overtime
iv. Retention Incentive Pay for 10+ years of service
v. Post Pay or Educational Incentive Pay
vi. On-Call and Call Back Pay
vii. Uniform Allowance
viii. Pay Differentials
—1. 5% for acting as Training Officer
—2. 5% while training as an Investigator, 10% upon completion of training period
—3. 10% for Investigations Sergeant
—4. Court Duty: 3 hours premium pay plus pay for additional hours worked
—5. Canine Pay: $100 per month
—6. Foreign language: 5%

b. Leave Provisions:
i. Floating Holiday: 104 hours per year. Sworn members are paid for unused hours semi-annually.
ii. Vacation: 80 – 160 hours per year depending upon years of service
iii. Sick Leave: 96 hours per year
iv. FMLA: 16 weeks

c. Health and Welfare Benefits:
i. Cafeteria – payment for medical, dental and vision insurance
—1. Base benefit: $1,200 to $1,457.22 per month
—2. Waived coverage (cash-out option): $500 or $1,200 per month
ii. County paid life insurance of $50,000
iii. PERS Retirement – 3 tiers:
—1. Tier 1: County pays 100% of all retirement costs for all employees – current rates: 44% of pay for safety and 21% for miscellaneous (109 current DSA employees)
—2. Tier 2: Employees pay 9% safety or 7% miscellaneous employee contribution (10 current DSA employees)
—3. Tier 3: Employees pay 11.5% safety or 6.25% miscellaneous employee contribution (4 current DSA employees)
iv. Computer Purchase Program
v. Educational Reimbursement

4. County’s Proposed Package

a. 2 year agreement

b. Safety employees receive 7% salary increase

c. Miscellaneous employees receive 1% salary increase like all other miscellaneous employees throughout the County

d. Tier 1 employees pay 6.25% of employer share of PERS instead of 0%

e. Tier 2 employees pay 6.25% instead of current contribution of 9% safety or 7% miscellaneous

f. Tier 3 employees – no change to contributions

g. Various language changes to increase flexibility for the Sheriff to assign personnel in a cost effective and efficient manner. For example:

i. Eliminating current contract language that requires the Sheriff to approve vacation requests submitted with 10 days advance notice
ii. Eliminating additional pay for Corporals, who are already paid to “provide on- the-job training, leadership and work direction of assigned subordinate officers”, in the absence of a Sergeant for providing supervision
iii. Modifying the calculation for overtime to only include hours “actually worked”. No “paid leave” to be used in the calculation.

5. Safety vs. Miscellaneous Classifications

a. Safety (a.k.a. sworn): Deputy Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff Corporal, Sheriff’s Sergeant, Sheriff’s Detective, Jail Deputy Sheriff, Jail Corporal, Jail Sergeant, Bailiff, Bailiff Corporal, Bailiff Sergeant, Deputy Probation Officer I/II/Senior, and District Attorney Investigator (103 current employees)

b. Miscellaneous: Sheriff’s Dispatcher, Sheriff’s Lead Dispatcher, Evidence Custodian-Fleet Coordinator, Crime Scene Technician I/II, Jail Booking Clerk, Lead Jail Booking Clerk, and Welfare Fraud Investigator (20 current employees)

Letter Written in May to the Supervisors From DSA President Dan Graziose:

Chairman Hanvelt and members of the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors,

I feel obligated to point out an area of great concern in light of upcoming negotiations between the DSA and the County. It has come to my attention that the Board of Supervisors is going to seek “massive” concessions from the DSA. I believe seeking any economic concessions from the DSA will result in a public safety emergency.

The Sheriff’s Office is currently at critical staffing levels, 74% or lower. In the next 30 to 60 days that number could fall as low as 50% of normal staffing. This dramatic reduction in staffing levels is a direct result of our pay and benefits package not being competitive with surrounding agencies, which are trying to hire from the same pool of people that we are. The Sheriff has been actively seeking to fill 6 patrol deputy positions for the last 12 months.

Frequently when a law enforcement agency posts a position it can expect 40 people or more to apply for the one position. However, this is not the case with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. When these positions were posted the first time we only had 12 applicants apply for 6 positions. To put this into perspective our closest neighbor, Sonora Police Department, had two openings and 60 applicants. The second time the Sheriff posted these positions we had 30 applicants for 7-8 positions. The increase in applicants between the first and second posting was a result of the Sheriff using a recruitment team. This team has been posting positions on the POST website, visiting academies and attending job fairs.

Of all the applications the Sheriff’s Office has received to date we have not been able to hire even one qualified applicant. Applicants are being eliminated for things like failing to pass the background, having been terminated from another agency, failing to pass field training at our S.O. (FTO) and failing to pass probation. Any qualified applicant is more likely to apply to one of the surrounding agencies that have a more competitive pay and benefits package. Not only can we not hire new employees we are losing existing employees to other agencies that have substantially better pay and benefits. In the last 12 months we lost 2 deputies to the Modesto Police Department, 1 moved out of state and 1 retired. We have 2 additional deputies finishing up the hiring process (1 with the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office and another with the Sunnyvale Police Department). We also have approximately 6 deputies who have applied with other agencies (3 more to Modesto PD, 1 to Tracy PD and 2 with Oakdale PD).

Upon hearing that the Board of Supervisors would be seeking concessions from the DSA, I conducted an informal poll, both in the Sheriff’s Office and the Probation Department. The results were surprising, even to me. Even if the Sheriff’s Office faces what would be considered minor concessions, we would likely lose 10 additional deputies from the patrol division and 20-30% of jail deputies. If the DSA faces major concessions we will likely lose 15 to 20 patrol deputies and 50 to 60% of the jail deputies along with a majority of probation officers. These are massive numbers for a small organization. What does this mean to the citizens of Tuolumne County? With only 10 to 15% of the patrol division remaining and 40 to 50% of the jail deputies, I believe the Sheriff’s Office would be rendered non-mission capable. I believe the Sheriff would be forced to put all of his resources into running the jail and the county would have to contract with the California Highway Patrol for law-enforcement services.

This would not be a short term problem. The County would have to replace 20 to 25 patrol deputies, 15-20 jail deputies and a majority of its probation officers. When you consider the fact the Sheriff’s Office has been working for a year to replace 6 deputies in the patrol division, 20-25 is an overwhelming number. It costs a minimum of $10,000 per deputy (and I have heard estimates of up to $30,000 per deputy) for them to be put through the hiring process. If you use the low estimates on number of deputies that would need to be replaced and the low estimate on the cost of replacing those deputies, you still spend $350,000, and don’t get the same quality of deputies that you have now. For years we have discussed at the bargaining table that it costs $250,000 to train a patrol deputy. The County would be losing sergeants, corporals, detectives, patrol deputies and jail deputies. These deputies would take a host of special skills with them i.e. SWAT, search and rescue, fire investigations, K9, supervisory course, and investigation course, only to name a few. I don’t know how much it would cost to send new deputies to these schools and get them certified to fill these positions but I believe the expense would dramatically outweigh any perceived savings.

The County could reduce its standards and hire applicants below the standards for law enforcement statewide. I believe this is a bad plan and it will open the County to a great deal of liability. Let’s face it there’s a reason that these individuals have been excluded from other law-enforcement jobs. One large lawsuit could result in a loss to the county double or triple the deficit the county currently faces.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Daniel Graziose