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County workers agree to 12 days no pay

Supervisor Rocky Rockholm describes action as ‘valiant’
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s largest labor union has agreed to a plan that erases the threat of layoffs next year in return for taking 12 days off without pay. Members of the Placer Public Employees Organization voted 568-275 Wednesday in favor of taking one day off each month over the year starting in July to stave off staff cuts. County management is trying to rein in an anticipated $18.5 million budget shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year because of lowered revenue during the current economic downturn. The union, which represents about 1,800 county employees, also voted in favor of lowering the cap on next year’s cost-of-living wage increase from up to 5 percent to a firm 2.5 percent. Chuck Thiel, union business representative, said in a message to voting members that the goal was to get the best option to avoid layoffs that they could bargain for and then bring it back to the rank and file for a vote. Thiel said the county had initially been seeking a salary increase for union members of between 0 percent and 2.5 percent, based on the consumer price index. County staff reported to the Board of Supervisors two months ago that from 98 to 115 jobs would be saved this coming year with the 12 furlough days and downward adjustment in the cap on raises. Supervisor Rocky Rockholm, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, described the action by union members as a valiant one. “We owe them our respect and thanks,” Rockholm said. Union members have helped ensure the county can continue to provide quality services to residents despite tough economic times, Rockholm added. A group of employees that included about 280 management staff members had agreed in February to a similar furlough plan for the coming year, but also approved limits on salary increases of between 0 percent and 2.5 percent, based on the consumer price index. County Executive Officer Tom Miller said action by both management and unionized employees would save at least 100 jobs. “They’ve demonstrated exceptional leadership in this challenging budget year,” Miller said. The combined effect of the furloughs and raise limits will save the county about $6.7 million, according to CEO’s office estimates. The agreement doesn’t preclude layoffs due to lack of work but that they would only occur after an employee refuses a work reassignment. No layoffs of union members can occur because of “financial reasons,” the agreement states. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.