The union representing 550 Orange County welfare eligibility workers has agreed to accept a 10.75% wage increase over the next two years after failing to win concessions on the controversial issue of comparable worth.
Members of the county Social Service employees organization voted Monday to accept the pact after months of bitter, often stalled negotiations and after the membership authorized a strike that never materialized.
The organization had argued that social service employees’ pay should be increased substantially to match that of higher-salaried professionals with similar levels of experience in other departments, but county officials rejected the concept.
“We rejected it because of cost, but also because our philosophy is that wages are based on what it takes to attract and retain qualified personnel in the market place,” said John Sibley, the county’s chief of employee relations.
Sibley said Tuesday that the county had made “pay equity” adjustments for clerks and other employees such as nurses in the past, but he added that the changes were based strictly on what it takes to retain qualified people, not on acceptance of a “social policy” of equalizing pay for different types of work.
Before their wage increase, county eligibility workers were paid from $1,127 to $1,627 per month, according to a union spokesman.
The social service employees have been the most vocal in pay disputes with the county in recent years. They have staged several public demonstrations to complain about pay, big caseloads and working conditions.