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County responds to SEIU complaint

Clark County and its largest union are in a high-profile labor dispute that has two fronts.

The two sides are waiting for an arbitrator to determine the terms of their next collective bargaining agreement. They had an arbitration hearing on July 1.

And due to a wage freeze, the union filed a separate complaint with the state Employee-Management Relations Board seeking to overturn the county‘s actions, calling its interpretation of the law flawed because the contract has a clause for the agreement to continue year-to-year unless changed or terminated.

The two groups started negotiating in 2013 and it turned into an impasse in 2014. The county in June froze wage and salary increases for about 4,700 employees affiliated with the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, saying a new state collective bargaining law prevents it from awarding raises and that the contract expired in 2013.

The county filed a response Wednesday to the union‘s complaint, saying its claims have no merit and asking for a full hearing. The EMRB on July 29 will set a hearing date, possibly for September.

No similar complaints about the new state law have been filed with the state board, said Bruce Snyder, a commissioner with the EMRB.

The arbitrator will examine sticking points of pay raises and if future employees will be eligible for longevity pay, which increases pay after employees have eight years of service. The county has pushed to end the benefit for future hires, citing long-term savings.

An arbitrator‘s award of a new contract won‘t necessarily end the labor complaint. If the new contract doesn‘t make whole the employees who lost out on wage increases, the labor complaint still remains, said SEIU Local 1107 President Martin Bassick.

"What we‘re talking about is the restoration to employees who are being harmed," Bassick said.

County spokesman Erik Pappa declined to comment.

About 70 percent of the SEIU workforce is eligible for roughly 4 percent merit pay increases. That‘s an average of 274 employees each month denied raises on their hiring anniversary.

The county has offered a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase retroactive July 1, 2014; a 2 percent increase for 2015; and the ability to negotiate wages in 2016.

The county also has offered a $500 one-time bonus per employee, while eliminating longevity pay for future hires.

The SEIU has asked for cost-of-living increases of 2.25 percent or 2.5 percent for 2014, 2015 and 2016. The union has offered to turn down the bonus and change longevity pay so future employees are eligible after 11 years instead of eight years.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.

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