The County of Santa Clara has reached a tentative agreement on two-year contracts with their largest employee union. Approval came in a Saturday night vote by SEIU Local 521. Between seven bargaining units, SEIU Local 521 represents more than 8,000 of the county’s 15,000 employees.

The agreements include jobs such as administrative, professional, clerical, blue collar, public health nurses, environmental health specialists, social service workers and the probation counselor safety employees. The tentative agreement, which now must be ratified by the Board of Supervisors, will yield savings of nearly $78.1 million from all County funds over the two years.

“Our employees demanded that we listen, that we work with them to come up with creative and effective ways to deal with the hardship of budget cuts,” said County of Santa Clara Board President Dave Cortese. “We listened, and they have responded with a new contract that utilizes thoughtful solutions to deal with the sacrifices of these difficult times we are living in. They are to be commended for that and they will be remembered in the future for having carried a difficult burden when the county most needed their help.”

Said Wren Bradley, Chair of the Santa Clara County Chapter: “We all know these are extremely tough economic times and I am just so proud that SEIU county workers – in voting to approve this contract — have demonstrated our desire to do our part.  This was a hard-won contract. We stood our ground when certain proposals from the county were just too drastic for working families to bear. This contract does what we asked from the beginning: that cuts be fair and equitable.”

The agreement includes a variety of cost-saving solutions to assist Santa Clara County in managing a General Fund budget deficit totaling in at $219 million. The key agreements are on economic terms.

SEIU employees will take 10 unpaid furlough days off during the year.  Also, County holidays will be reduced from 12 to 8 the first year.  New hires will be paid at 10 percent below the current minimum salary for existing jobs.  Employees will contribute two percent more of their salary towards retirement, for a total of six percent.  Employees will now pay more for health plan copayments, depending on the health plan.   Also, for the first time, current employees are paying contributions towards future premiums for retiree health benefit costs.  The value of the first year savings is $45.2 million for all County funds.  In year two, employees will be required to take four unpaid furlough days and only two holidays are eliminated.  The value of the second year savings is $32.9 million for a combined total of $78.1 million of all County funds, including the General Fund.

The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors will be asked to ratify the agreement at its Board meeting on Tuesday, August 9th.

The agreement with SEIU comes on the heels of other successes at the bargaining table.

On June 21st, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the members of CEMA/OE#3, AFL-CIO, a union representing over 1,600 middle managers within Santa Clara County. The agreement will yield savings of nearly $27 million over the two years, or $13.4 million annually.

The same day, the Board also approved an action, for confidential administrative employees, which mirrors the CEMA Agreement. A union does not represent this group. The savings to be achieved for the confidential employees from the changes total $2 million for the two-year period, or $1 million annually.

On June 7th, the Board of Supervisors accepted a series of proposals from County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith that will reduce Executive Managers’ salary by six percent (6%) next month while increasing their share of payments towards the cost of benefits, for a total reduction in compensation of 8.95 percent. The annual savings to be achieved with these changes total $3.1 million.

The County also has contract negotiations underway with five additional bargaining units: County Counsel Attorneys, Government Attorneys (deputy District Attorneys and Public Defenders), Union of American Physicians and Dentists (Psychiatrists and Assistant Medical Examiners), Valley Physicians Group (VMC attending Physicians, and Dentists), and Interns and Residents.