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SEIU, Clark County still far apart on contract agreement

Clark County and its largest union are rapidly approaching the one-year anniversary of when the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 declared an impasse in negotiations.

The two sides don’t appear to be any closer to reaching a contract agreement for the 5,000 county workers in the union than they were in February.

The long-term and short-term impacts are sweeping: the cost difference between proposals from each side for the first two years is $4.2 million. County management is pushing to end longevity pay for future employees, saying it would save more than $140 million over a three-decade period to put toward other budget needs such as the Clark County Detention Center and University Medical Center.

The county and the union have been unable to bring the matter before a binding arbitrator because both sides disagree on how long the contract should be. With binding arbitration, a third party would make a final decision about other sticking points, which are raises and longevity pay.

The SEIU wants an arbitrator to set a contract that covers July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017. The county wants a contract that would end one year earlier — June 30, 2016. That’s because the county isn’t in a position to propose a cost-of-living increase beyond that date, according to a memorandum that county Chief Financial Officer Yolanda King sent commissioners and management Tuesday.

“We hope SEIU agrees to the proposed June 30, 2016, contract term which would allow this dispute to go immediately to an Arbitrator,” King wrote.

The SEIU-affiliated workers work throughout the county in departments that include Family Services, the Department of Aviation and water reclamation.

The county and the SEIU started bargaining in June 2013. Each 1 percent raise that SEIU-affiliated county employees receive would cost $2.8 million annually, according to county estimates.

The county in November had offered a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase retroactive to July 1, 2014, to be followed by a 2 percent increase on July 1, 2015. From there, the two parties would bargain the cost-of-living increase for 2016.

The SEIU’s proposal is unchanged and still calls for 3 percent salary increases each year from 2014 through 2017, according to the county memorandum.

County Manager Don Burnette, stressing the county’s willingness to go to arbitration, said the employees deserve a contract.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Burnette said. “At the end of the day, we’re over 19 months into this bargaining process and we don’t have a contract. The fact that this has dragged on as long as it has is not fair to our employees in terms of getting this resolved as quickly as possible. We owe them that in my opinion.”

Martin Bassick, president of the SEIU Local 1107, said he couldn’t talk about specifics of the negotiations.

Bassick said it’s ideal for any contract to last long enough that both sides don’t have to start bargaining again right after it’s signed.

“I’m still hopeful we can come to a resolution,” Bassick said. “But I have to let that process play out and see how it happens.”

The county wants to eliminate longevity pay for future employees to save money. Longevity pay starts after an employee has eight years of service, paying 0.57 percent of the base salary for each year of service.

SEIU officials have said that keeping longevity pay in place promotes stability and encourages employees to have longer county careers.

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

 

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