County commissioners cut managers' salaries

After some debate Tuesday, Clark County commissioners approved a 2 percent pay cut for managers, which will save $1.2 million.

The wage reduction appeared more of a show of "shared sacrifice" -- a popular term among labor leaders and managers -- than a significant plug in the county's gaping shortfall.

County coffers are expected to lose at least $30 million because of drooping property values plus an estimated $125 million a year from legislative actions.

Roughly 300 managers at the county, University Medical Center and the Water Reclamation District will see their salaries shrink by 2 percent after April 16.

The county's largest union was waiting for managers' pay cuts to go through before voting on 2 percent wage cuts that would save $8.3 million. Union leaders expect workers to give the go-ahead by Friday, partly to avoid arbitration.

"A good majority will pass it," said Nick Di Archangel, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union 1107. "It's still in the interest of members to pass it. That keeps it out of the hands of a third party."

About 5,100 union workers and 1,200 nonunion employees would be affected. Nonunion workers were originally lumped in with managers for pay cuts; their reductions will save about $2 million.

Wage decreases for those workers are supposed to go into effect at about the same time as those for managers, Di Archangel said. When all the pay cuts are implemented, the county and union can begin bargaining to renew the labor contract that is set to expire at the end of June, Di Archangel said.

Managers' pay reductions caused some quibbling among commissioners.

Commissioner Tom Collins, who cast the lone "no" vote, wanted to delay the cuts and vote later on a package of reductions for managers, including longevity pay, vacation and car allowances. He argued that trimming perks might allow those employees to give up less pay.

Commissioner Larry Brown bemoaned snipping the salaries of managers, saying they have made the biggest sacrifice in the past three years by freezing their pay. Meanwhile, some employee groups have refused to give anything, he said.

But Commissioner Steve Sisolak said it was crucial to push through the managers' pay cuts now so the SEIU and other employee groups could follow suit.

He agreed with Collins that benefits should be trimmed. But he argued that reducing vacation shouldn't be done in lieu of snipping pay because it won't lead to tangible savings.

Sisolak asked that commissioners discuss cutting longevity pay for managers at a later meeting. He said he sympathized with managers enduring the brunt of cost-cutting.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani questioned whether the pay cuts were in reaction to some state lawmakers remarking that the county has done little to rein in labor costs. She said she was hesitant to do an across-the-board wage cut because of the disparities in different managers' salaries.

She also was concerned about public defenders being lumped in with managers. Those employees agreed not to join a union, and now they're being penalized for it, she said, arguing that they should be excluded from the pay cuts.

But Sisolak insisted that everyone in the managers' group be treated the same.

"At some point, we have to say, 'Enough,'" Sisolak said.