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County, union on path to arbitration

Clark County and the Service Employees International Union, its largest employee group, have been unable to negotiate a contract and are on the path toward binding arbitration.

The sticking points between the two sides hinge on salaries. The SEIU Local 1107 has proposed 3 percent cost-of-living increases in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The county’s proposal calls for a 1.5 percent wage increase in 2014, a 2 percent increase in 2015, and a wage re-opener to examine the issue in 2016.

The SEIU on Monday tweeted that its contract is heading to fact-finding, calling the county’s offer an “all-or-nothing” proposal.

The county’s proposal also calls for ending longevity pay for future hires. The SEIU wants to preserve longevity pay for new employees.

Longevity pay kicks in after an employee has been on the job for eight years, paying 0.57 percent of the worker’s base pay for each year of service in an annual lump sum.

It’s not the first indication that SEIU and Clark County need an arbitrator to reach an agreement. SEIU attorney Michael Urban notified Clark County in a Feb. 10, 2014, letter than the union and Clark County have reached an “impasse on negotiations” and requested to go to binding arbitration. With binding arbitration, both parties agree that an arbitrator will hear from both sides and make a final decision to resolve the differences.

“The county has supported moving this to binding arbitration since February, and we remain committed to getting this resolved through binding arbitration as quickly as possible, particularly since the union’s positions on compensation and longevity haven’t changed over that time period,” County Manager Don Burnette said in an interview.

The county and SEIU, which represents about 5,000 county staffers who work in areas such as the Department of Family Services and the Department of Aviation, started negotiations in June 2013.

“We’re in the middle of this process, and we’re trying to work it out,” said Martin Bassick, president of the SEIU Local 1107. “Just because we go to impasse, under the law we still have to bargain.”

Bassick said he would prefer closing the contract without getting a third party involved in the process.

Under the SEIU’s tentative timeline, the county and union would select an arbitrator in late October, with a binding decision by May or June 2015 after a hearing and legal briefs.

Longevity pay for new hires has been phased out gradually since 2002 with 11 other Clark County employee groups, including park police, prosecutors and firefighters. The county estimates that eliminating longevity pay for future SEIU-affiliated employees would generate $358 million in savings during the next three decades.

The county lost a recent arbitration case involving the SEIU’s bargaining unit for employees at University Medical Center. The arbitrator decided that the county cannot eliminate longevity pay for future hires at the public hospital.

The new contract for UMC employees includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase that restores a 2 percent pay cut. UMC employees also will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living increase retroactive to July 1, and a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase effective July 1, 2015.

The SEIU and county have agreed on one issue — a 2 percent wage restoration received in June.

County firefighters received a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in July. Metropolitan Police Department officers were awarded two cost-of-living increases totaling 1.5 percent in a one-year award after going to binding arbitration in 2013.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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