Three groups of county employees accept contract offers
Lassen County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen announced the agreement with the peace officers and management association members at a special Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
County Clerk Theresa Nagel announced the agreement with the road worker’s association at the board’s Tuesday, Nov. 28 meeting.
All three contracts are effective from July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2009.
The United Public Employees of California bargaining unit for clerical staff, the mid-managers association and the peace officer’s association management unit have yet to agree on a contract. The county may impose a contract if negotiations fail to produce an agreement.
Saying they were attempting to stop a mass exodus from taking place at the sheriff’s department Lassen County Sheriff’s deputies urged the county to put more on the table.
As employees of the lowest paid sheriff’s department in the state, eight of 20 deputies, and 10 of 34 correctional officers have applied to other police agencies or the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, “That we know of,” Deputy Mike Bollinger said on Thursday, Nov. 2.
LCPOA was at impasse in salary negotiations with the county, meaning both sides put forth offers but they didn’t agree and called in a mediator to take offers from one side to the other.
LCPOA members said salaries have not kept up with the cost of living.
“And now with the price of gas the way it is and the way homes have shot up in price, it’s very hard for anyone to rent or to buy a home within Lassen County,” said Joe Uruburu, a jail supervisor. “And gas prices are not expected to go down; not a dollar, anyway.”
On Friday, Dec. 8, Uruburu said the salary increases do not bring salaries into a completive range with nearby law enforcement agencies.
“But it’s something,” he said, adding he has no idea if the new contract will stem the exodus of sheriff’s deputies.
A deputy’s entry-level salary was $2,726 a month. That’s $693 a month less than deputies in Sierra County; $360 a month less than deputies in Plumas County, where the county pays almost $1,042 a month in medical insurance; and $30 less a month than Susanville Police Officers, who also have medical benefits fully paid by the city.
As with other county employees, employees of the sheriff’s department have been forced to apply for public assistance in the form of Healthy Families insurance for their children. One deputy said his children currently have no health insurance because he can’t afford it.
“Our years of experience within the department are dwindling, also,” Uruburu said.
Of 62 employees, only 23 have five years or more of experience. One employee has four years of experience. Four have three years of experience and 28 employees have two years of experience or less.
“And that’s because we’ve lost them to the surrounding counties and, of course the prison,” Uruburu said. “We can’t compete with the prison; we understand that.”
LCPOA employees have never asked for salaries comparable with the state, Bollinger said.
“We want to be real specific on not trying to get to CDC wages,” said Deputy Curtis Hubanks, “because we are trying to be fair and compete with the surrounding counties.”
LCPOA members must take courses to keep up with Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements and risk their personal safety on a regular basis to protect the citizens of Lassen County.
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