WatchSonoma Watch

Final group of county workers accepts furloughs


Mechanics, heavy-equipment operators and building maintenance workers this week became the final group of Sonoma County employees to accept a cost-saving — and job-saving — deal.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 agreed to a package of mandatory days off without pay, salary freezes and a halt in staff development spending in an agreement approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

It was roughly the same package of concessions that all other county employees, including supervisors, managers and other unrepresented workers, agreed to earlier this summer.

At that time county officials said the union was the lone holdout among 11 bargaining units, saying the group had not responded to the proposal before a July 13 deadline.

A union official said then that group’s members needed more time to come to a consensus. The same official did not respond to multiple calls Wednesday asking for comment.

County officials declined to speculate on the reason for the union’s delay. But they said they were pleased with the ultimate decision. “I’m thrilled that another member of the county organization has come forward,” said County Administrator Veronica Ferguson.

The deal includes eight furlough days this budget year and five days next year.

On top of an ongoing salary freeze and suspension in staff development spending, it also includes a provision to discuss a two-tiered retirement system that would offer lower benefits to new employees.

That provision was part of the deal for eight of the other 10 bargaining units. The remaining two groups will see the provision come up in ongoing contract talks, county officials said.

The employee concessions, which are expected to generate about $4 million in savings over the first year, were meant to reduce the number of layoffs needed to help fill a nearly $62 million deficit in the county’s general fund.

Supervisors already have designated the savings to restore 34 jobs, and to save a youth probation center, community policing and domestic violence programs from the budget ax.

The concessions by the operating engineers’ union account for about $125,000 of the total first-year projected savings, county records show.

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