June 13, 2013

By Laura Olson

Associated Press

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- About 95,000 state employees could be in line for a 4.5 percent pay raise as part of a tentative three-year agreement reached Tuesday be­tween Gov. Jerry Brown and Cali­fornia’s largest public employee union.

In an email to members, Service Employees Union International Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said the pay hike would be received by July 1, 2015, with specific timing dependent on state revenues.

If revenue meets state projections, employees would get a 2 percent raise on July 1, 2014, followed by another 2.5 percent increase on July 1, 2015.

If next year’s revenue targets aren't met, the entire 4.5 percent increase would go into effect in 2015.

State revenues have seen a bump this year, but analysts say it's too soon to tell whether those increases will continue.

Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, described the proposed link between raises and state revenues as “laughable,” because employees would get the pay increases regardless of the state’s finances next year.

“It negates itself,” Jones said. “(The governor) says one thing, but if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to do it anyway.”

The deal also includes a guarantee of no furlough days and protects health care and retirement benefits. State workers have had one furlough day a month during the past year.

The proposed contract also sets up a faster timeline for the state to pay its share of health care costs for a new employee’s dependents.

“I think it's a fair proposal, and I’m hoping that it will be ratified,” the governor told reporters.

Pat McConahay, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Human Resources, said in a statement that the administration “recognizes that through cutbacks and hard work, state employees have played an important role in stabilizing Cali­fornia’s finances over the past five years.”

Pay increases included in the pact would be carefully phased in “based on the state’s economic recovery,” she noted.

The Department of Finance will determine next May whether projected state revenues are sufficient for the raises to go into effect in 2014.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, said the contract agreement does not affect a tentative deal with top Democratic legislators on a 2013-14 state budget, since raises would not take effect until July 2014.

The union criticized Brown at a Capitol rally last week, saying the governor was refusing to offer any pay raises. Asked by reporters last month about negotiations, Brown said he was aiming low.

Unions were critical in winning voter approval for Brown’s Novem­ber tax initiative, Proposition 30, and helping him present a budget that he says is balanced.

“State workers have been through a roller coaster in the past five years,” SEIU spokesman Jim Zamora said Tuesday. “We have been on furloughs more than we haven’t.”

State officials were not able to say how much the pay increases would mean in dollar figures for the average employee.

The state is also responsible for billions of dollars in health care obligations and pension liabilities for retired state employees in the Cali­fornia Public Employees’ Retirement System.

The state should start paying down those obligations before giving state workers a substantial raise, said Dan Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform.

“Most state employees, if you include their retirement packages, would continue to be overcompensated based upon their private sector counterparts,” Pellissier said.

The union said the tentative agreement with Brown also includes increases in business and travel expenses, additional grievance procedures, and a 50-cent hourly increase for seasonal employees starting in July 2014.

State employees who are at the top salary level for their position are scheduled to receive a 3 percent pay increase on July 1 as part of the existing union contract.

The deal requires ratification by union employees, who will begin voting on the proposal the week of June 24. Negotiations are ongoing with the 10 other state employee bargaining units.

Category: Business

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