Court employees face new employment terms |

Court employees face new employment terms

Cole Mayer

After labor negotiations with El Dorado County Superior Court employees failed, the court will impose new terms and conditions on the employees, including having them contribute to their own retirement plan.

After eight months of negotiations with a neutral mediator, no agreement was reached, a press release stated. As such, the new terms and conditions will be imposed as of May 18.

The changes are the result of statewide cuts to trial court budgets, about $1 billion in the past five years. This fiscal year, El Dorado County’s court budget was reduced by $2.6 million.

“This is a challenging time for all employees serving the public,” Court Executive Officer Tania Ugrin-Capobianco said in the press release. “Our court employees are valued professionals who provide an important service to the community. We regret having to take such drastic measures to meet the economic challenges created by the reductions to trial court funding.”

She noted that the number of staff has already been reduced to a “critical number” and that any further reduction could have an impact on the services provided by the court. Neighboring courts have either closed locations or reduced hours in response to the fiscal hardship.

The amount of savings sought from the 52 represented employees was $275,000, the press release states, a little more than 10 percent of the total cut from the court’s budget. Personnel costs represent about 78 percent of the overall court budget.

On May 18, employees will have to contribute 3.5 percent towards their own retirement, with another 3.5 percent effective July 1. The court had previously paid the employees’ 7 percent towards retirement.

Other changes will also take place on May 18. Among them, the court will no longer pay for retiree health care for new employees; longevity pay, a benefit for employees committed to careers in public service, will be reduced from 10 percent to 6 percent over 20 years; and an end to the $92.30 every two weeks pay differential for employees doing the same work as other employees at the South Lake Tahoe Courthouse.

Non-union employees, including management and the court executive officer, had agreed to these terms and conditions in February.

Meetings began in August 2012 with the court and the International Union for Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers, Local 39 and arrived at a tentative agreement. It was rejected by employees. The two parties went back to the table, assisted by a state mediator, but the results were still unsuccessful. The court then presented its “last, best and final Offer.” Employees rejected this, too.

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