RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to impose a one-year contract on the union representing Riverside County sheriff’s deputies after nearly 16 months of negotiations failed to produce a collective bargaining agreement that both sides could accept.
“Time is wasting, and we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to get by over the next couple of years,” board Chairman John Tavaglione said.
The vote impacting the 2,500-member Riverside Sheriffs’ Association will give negotiators from the county and attorneys for the union another opportunity to try to reach a compromise on a new three-year compact, spelling out provisions regarding overtime pay, salary step increases, SWAT standby compensation and other matters.
The previous RSA agreement with the county expired June 30, 2016.
County negotiator Peter Brown told the board that 19 negotiating sessions had resulted in a tentative collective bargaining agreement last winter, but after initially accepting it, RSA members ultimately voted to reject what became the county’s “last, best and final offer.”
“The board was consistent that it wanted savings, and RSA agreed to most proposals, but in the end, an agreement could not be reached,” Brown said.
Sticking points included medical care contributions, parking fees charged to deputies for use of county lots in their personal vehicles, limits on “meet-and-confer” changes to the county-RSA memorandum of understanding after it becomes finalized and whether union shop stewards should be permitted to take up time during on-duty departmental briefings to discuss union business.
“We agreed to stipulations that would provide $17 million in savings,” Douglas Olins, the RSA’s chief negotiator, said. “But it was apparent the county never wanted to reach an agreement. The (county negotiators) were constantly threatening us with a last, best, final offer.”
Olins accused the county of pushing to continually extract more concessions from deputies, which he said would sorely impact morale and hasten the departure of more personnel seeking happier workplaces.
Department of Human Resources chief Mike Stock told the board that some items under discussion with the union were “nonnegotiable,” including the county’s desire to freeze cost-of-living adjustments and automatic pay increases for the duration of the MOU. Other than that, the county was willing to engage in meaningful negotiations, he said.
The county is seeking roughly $20 million in annual savings from the RSA contract, and according to Stock, the terms of the final offer that the board imposed will net about $10.33 million for what’s left of the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Issues on which the two sides appeared to be close to agreement, according to mediator Paul Crost, included a change in work schedules to reduce overtime pay; a modification to the “court call back” pay period, which is usually four straight hours of compensation for an off-duty deputy but would be reduced to two hours; an elimination of the requirement for a minimum of 16 deputies to be in ready mode for SWAT deployment, thus drawing pay and the amount of unused sick leave funds that can be cashed out when a deputy parts from county service.
Supervisor Manuel Perez, who cast the sole vote against imposition, aired his concerns about the ability of deputies to meet with their union reps during or immediately after on-duty briefings, even though Undersheriff Bill Di Yorio assured the board that Sheriff Stan Sniff had dropped his objections to the practice.
“In this day and age, everyone utilizes electronic means to communicate, and we were protective of that briefing time because that’s when we tell folks about safety issues and other stuff,” Di Yorio said.
On Tavaglione’s motion, the board nixed the parking fee requirement and added in language regarding higher medical fee contributions under the final contract terms.
According to Supervisor Marion Ashley, imposition may end up being a healthy exercise.
“It’s not like it’s forever,” he said. “This is a prudent way to go. We have to move ahead.”