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Benefit Give-Backs in Contracts for County Nurses, Sergeants

Report: County will save $4 million.

Pleased with benefit give-backs by nurses and sheriff's sergeants, county supervisors on Tuesday approved contracts with both employee groups that included modest and deferred raises.

Agreements with both unions that trade short-term raises for decreased long-term financial obligations are expected to save the county more than $4 million over a 10-year span.

"These have been long, arduous but productive negotiations," said Board President Carole Groom. "Everyone sat down and negotiated in good faith, and made personal sacrifices because they understood the county was in a place that made it so this needed to be done."

Groom thanked the sheriff's sergeants for reopening their contract when they were under no mandate to do so.

The county nurses union will draw an annual two-percent pay increase over the course of thir three-year contract -- critical in bringing the pay closer to the earnings of colleagues in surrounding regions, said human resources director Donna Vaillancourt.

In return, newly hired members of the the California Nurses Association agreed to contribute more to their post-retirement benefit and health coverage plans.

The sheriff's sergeants contract features a similar trade, in which members of the Organization of Sheriff’s Sergeants will receive a pay hike, but one that is deferred three years down the line. In exchange, the newly hired union members will contribute more to their post retirement benefit and health plans.

Supervisor Dave Pine, who was not on the Board of Supervisors when the agreements were reached, found plenty to dislike in the sergeants' contract.

He called the pension give-backs inadequate and scoffed at a clause that guaranteed sheriff's sergeants in San Mateo County would be paid 1 percent more than their counterparts in surrounding counties.

He also said that unlike the nurses, whose pay lags behind those in other regions, the sheriff's sergeants already enjoy fair compensation.

Under the approval, newly hired sergeants will be offered the option to either retire at age 50 with two percent of their final salary multiplied by number of years worked, or at age 55 with three percent.

Members of the sergeants union currently are offered three percent at 50 years old.

They havealso agreed to pay 15 percent of their health premium cost. That is a five percent increase from the 10 percent they currently contribute, according to a county report.

Similarly, newly hired nurses are set to receive a contribution of 1.72 percent of their final salary multiplied by number of years worked, at age 58, to their post-retirement benefits plan. This marks a reduction from the current agreement of two percent at 55.5 years old, according to a county report.

The sheriff's sergeants union agreed to re-negotiate the terms of their contract despite it not being due to expire until 2013.

The new contracts will contribute long-term savings toward eliminating the more than $100 million budget gap plaguing the county, according to a county report.

Supervisor Don Horsley agreed with Groom, and said he was impressed by the ability for each side to come to an agreement while keeping the morale of county employees high.

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