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Arbitrator sides with Clark County in giving union employees pay bump

Updated December 17, 2018 - 3:56 pm

Workers in Clark County’s largest employee union have been given 2 percent across-the-board wage increases, mirroring the final offer presented by county officials after stalled negotiations were delegated to an arbitrator.

Arbitrator Susan Grody Ruben sided with the county over Service Employees International Union Local 1107, according to a copy of her fact-finding report issued Dec. 3.

SEIU, which represents about 5,800 Clark County employees, had scaled back its initial request for 3.25 percent increases and settled on 3 percent as its final offer. But Ruben concluded in a binding ruling that the county’s final submission was “more reasonable.”

The 2 percent proposal equaled the figure in last year’s collective bargaining agreement, is consistent with most of the county’s other 11 bargaining units and would keep employees in “a decent position” compared with other similar agencies, she said.

Ruben was only granted authority to select either the county or the SEIU’s offer. She could not blend elements of the two.

Additionally, the salary schedule ceilings for employees, meaning the maximum amount one may be paid for their position, increased by 1 percent. While the SEIU had sought a 2 percent bump, the wage scale component had also not been included at all in the county’s initial offer.

“The bottom line from the SEIU perspective, the following result is better than what was offered at the table,” said labor attorney Michael Urban, the SEIU’s chief negotiator.

County officials estimated that the union’s offer would have cost about $7 million more. While there was no doubt about their ability to pay, Ruben raised questions over whether that money would be better spent on infrastructure, capital needs, technology, long-term unfunded obligations and more employees.

The wage increases went into effect Dec. 3 and will add $5.8 million to county expenses, although only roughly $2 million will be drawn from the general fund, according to county staff.

Salary range increases, for both union and non-unionized employees, will add about $1.5 million to county expenses. Less than half will come from the general fund.

The ruling closes the door on the formal dispute over pay this fiscal year, but Urban noted that negotiations were expected to reopen Friday for the year-long period beginning July 1.

The two sides have a contract in place through 2020, but wage increases are negotiated yearly.

Meanwhile, more than 230 employees in the Juvenile Justice Probation Officers Association will also be receiving 2 percent wage increases after seeking 2.4 percent, according to Sandy Jeantete, the county’s human resources chief.

That dispute was also decided through arbitration.

The county commission on Tuesday will be presented with the findings in both cases.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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