Sheriff’s Deputies’ Union, Kern County End Contract Talks Without Agreement
Officials for the Kern Law Enforcement Association, which represents 475 sheriff's law officers and district attorney's office investigators, broke off contract negotiations with Kern County administrators on Thursday after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the timing of changes in health benefits and salary increases, the Bakersfield Californian reports. The sheriff's deputies and the county have been negotiating a new contract since the previous one expired in July 2002. In its final offer, the county proposed raising copayments for prescription drugs from $4, $8 or $15 to $5, $15 or $30 and for physician office visits from $10 to $15 per visit, according to county Employee Relations Officer Bill Douglas. In addition, the county offered a 2% pay raise effective in January 2004 and another 2% pay increase in January 2005. The contract would expire at the end of June 2005. The union's final offer included no changes to the members' health insurance package and a 4% cost of living increase retroactively effective to July 2003. The contract would expire at the end of June 2004.
KLEA President Joe Pilkington said the union's members have worked without a cost-of-living increase for more than three years because of the county's fiscal problems, adding that the county's compensation package has made it difficult to hire personnel for vacant law enforcement positions. Douglas said the union's contract proposal would cost the county about $1.5 million per year and that the county would like to agree on a contract that would not cost it "anything extra," according to the Californian. Douglas said he will recommend that the two sides go to state mediation, and if that fails, the board of supervisors can "simply adopt what the county is offering now," the Californian reports. KLEA members are legally bound from striking or invoking a work slowdown, county officials said (Bedell, Bakersfield Californian, 10/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.