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Clark County, employees union reach tentative contract agreement

Clark County officials and the Service Employees International Union have reached a tentative two-year contract agreement for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

Under the contract provisions, union members would receive no cost-of-living adjustment for both years and would have a 24-month merit pay freeze and a 12-month longevity pay freeze.

The agreement must be voted on by union members and ratified by the County Commission.

Negotiations between the two parties stalled in October because of a disagreement regarding the elimination of longevity pay for new hires — which is not a part of the tentative agreement — and allegations by the county that the union was “dragging its feet” because the groups were only meeting once a month.

Those talks resulted in county officials declaring an impasse during the sixth bargaining session. The matter went to mediation in early December.

“It’s been a difficult bargaining process, but the agreement reached by the parties today gives the county the savings we need to hopefully weather this recession,” County Manager Don Burnette said.

Union spokesman Nick DiArchangel said he was happy with the contract.

“The issues in this mediation session were economics and longevity,” DiArchangel said. “The contract is good for the county, good for the public, and our members should be happy we were able to come to an agreement, preserve longevity and there were no cuts to pay.”

Last year, SEIU agreed to a 2 percent across-the-board wage reduction.

The union represents public employees at McCarran International Airport and the Department of Family Services, among other agencies. The tentative agreement would cover airport, Family Services and water reclamation employees, among others.

A Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce study found that the state’s public workers were the ninth-highest-paid nationwide, receiving an average annual pay of $56,872 in 2009. That was 13 percent higher than the national average of $50,187. But the study found that Nevada ranked last in the number of public workers per capita, with 43.6 for every 1,000 residents in 2009.

County management said 70 percent of union members receive a 4 percent merit increase each year on their anniversary. The other 30 percent are at the top of their pay range and no longer receive the increase. However, once employees reach eight years of service, they receive a 0.57 percent longevity pay increase for each year of service. County officials said they spend $35 million each year on longevity pay.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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