As strike ends, SLO County administration signals fiscal troubles ahead

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Following the first strike in San Luis Obispo County government history, officials are not planning on any further salary negotiations for the current fiscal year. Early next year, the county will discuss increases in pay for the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

The county also announced a projected budget shortfall of $5 million to $10 million for the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

The San Luis Obispo County Employees Association (SLOCEA), which represents more than 1,700 of the county’s nearly 3,000 employees conducted a strike Tuesday through Thursday, which resulted in the closure of all public library branches countywide, and the closures of some social services. About 900 union members participated in the strike.

On Tuesday, numerous SLOCEA members picketed outside the county building and spoke during public comment of the board of supervisors meeting, where some said they are not receiving livable wages, a claim critics dispute. 

Recently, county officials agreed to give SLOCEA members .5 percent salary increases for the current fiscal year and 2 percent raises, effective July 1, 2019. The tentative two year deal, included a 4 percent increase in wages and benefits over two years, according to the county administrator’s office.

Union members are demanding immediate raises of an additional 2.5 percent, to give them 3 percent raises for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

However,county officials said the raises union members are demanding are not affordable.

Amid the stalled contract negotiations, union members have also chastised county officials for granting raises to management-level employees. The board of supervisors approved the management raises as part of a largely ignored consent agenda vote earlier this fall.

The pay hike consisted of raises for a group of 420 unrepresented employees, which includes elected officials, department heads, general management and operations and staff. The raise amounted to salary increases of .5 percent for most unrepresented employees, effective retroactively to July 1, 2018, and 2 percent raises, effective July 2, 2019.

County Administrative Officer Wade Horton said in a statement Friday the county is now faced with the tough task of bridging the divide. 

“We welcome employees back to work today after many exercised their right to strike and have their voices heard,” Horton said. “Now we have the difficult task of bridging the divide and bringing everyone together for the people we serve. I’m confident that we will work as a team to find some common ground moving forward.”

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