At its March 26 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a new contract with Laborers International Union of North America, Local 777.

The new contract, approved on a 4-1 vote, expires in two years. LIUNA members ratified the new terms on March 18.

Provisions of the new contract limit step and merit increases to one step annually for an employee and each step will be a 4 percent increase; no cost of living adjustments; an increase in monthly medical insurance premiums; and a bank of 40 hours of leave, which may be used during the contract’s term. 

Finally, if the Service Employees International Union negotiates better financial terms, the county will grant the same terms to LIUNA, too.

The contract cost will be about $2.7 million this year and $3.6 million in fiscal year 2019-20. “The cost of the Agreement does not exceed the parameters given by the Board of Supervisors,” County Counsel George Priamos said in his memorandum to the board. 

During board discussion, Supervisor Jeff Hewitt (5th District) and Board President Kevin Jeffries (1st District) both expressed concern about the county’s future financial condition. 

Hewitt noted that new home sales were declining, as well as consumer spending. Referring to the economic turn down 10 years ago, he feared that lay-offs, furloughs and four-day weeks would be needed to offset a decline in property tax revenue.

“It’s our duty to protect the best assets of the our county; that’s our employees,” he stated.

Consequently, he voted against the contract because of his fear that some employees’ jobs may be in jeopardy as the economy continues to decline.

Jeffries shared these concerns but felt the new agreement helps. Further, he argued that responsibility for the county’s fiscal condition “rest here at the dais” — the board, not the employees, should be shouldering the financial decisions.  

“We haven’t figured out how to deal with the most monumental fiscal challenges. I believe there’ll be significant layoffs [in the future],” Jeffries warned.

“Throughout this entire process, I have advocated for a balanced approach to negotiations,” said Supervisor Chuck Washington (3rd District). “I believe that LIUNA has worked in the best interests of their members and the county by coming to the table with honesty and integrity. I am pleased that we have arrived at a win-win agreement.”

  Negotiations continue with three other labor unions, including Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Association and United Domestic Workers. Service Employees International Union and RSA are currently working without an agreement, according to a county press release.