Kern County could be facing a massive public sector strike, as SEIU’s 5,000 members prepare to walk out of the job to protest for better terms during the County’s years-long negotiation.

At issue is a plan that would call for all County employees to pay for 20 percent of their healthcare premiums. Some currently pay nothing at all. According to the union, the increase, which the County would like to be implemented immediately, would affect all employees equally, because premiums do not depend upon wages, rather upon services covered. So the janitors and librarians that are represented would be hit with the same increase as sworn police officers. The difference is that often the lower-paid employees aren’t able to accumulate overtime pay and earn lower wages. That means the increase would hit them harder.

Instead, SEIU is hoping to couple the shared responsibility for healthcare premiums with small wage increases – two years of two percent raises – and a staggered implementation of the premiums. They hope to have employees pick up 10 percent this year and the full 20 percent beginning the following year.

However, should the County and Union not agree to a deal, the County has alluded to its plans to impose the terms as early as the Ides of March.

From the Bakersfield Californian:

Kern County and the approximately 5,000 county government members of the Service Employees International Union, Local 521, are preparing for a possible strike now that contract talks have sputtered.

On Wednesday, County Administrative Officer John Nilon wrote a memo to county department heads directing them to draft strike plans.

Read the full article here.