Sacramento County Executive Terry Schutten
Sacramento County officials spent Tuesday in last-minute talks with employee unions ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
That’s when supervisors are expected to vote on some $70 million in cuts to parks, health and social services and more. But a late push from the county to transfer thousands of employees to part-time has drawn the ire of the unions.
If the sides don’t make progress in negotiating concessions, county administrator Terry Schutten could ask the Board later this month to eliminate 7,400 positions – more than half the county’s work force. The county would then rehire the employees with a catch: they’d work two fewer days each month, keeping health insurance benefits but delaying their retirement benefits. The county would save around $4.6 million, and lead labor negotiator Steve Keil says it’s part of a long-term strategy to downsize the county’s staff.
Keil: “We definitely do not want to lay off employees. We have no options at this point, just given the fiscal circumstances facing the county. And the strategy we’re using will maximize the number of people we can keep in the workforce.”
But unions are furious at what they believe is an eleventh-hour attempt to play hardball. They also say it’s illegal and distracts from the real challenge of saving as many jobs as possible. Ted Somera is with United Public Employees Local 1, which represents about 4,000 non-public safety workers.
Somera: “This union is willing to work with the county to mitigate the number of layoffs, but the county has to be willing to work with us. If they pull this illegal proposal off the table, then we’re heading to the right direction.”
After Wednesday's vote, the county will have cut $300 million since June of last year. That’s 12 percent of its $2.5 billion dollar general fund.