Deputies OK Job Actions if Talks Stall
Orange County sheriff’s deputies Friday overwhelmingly gave their union approval to call for job actions--including a strike--if stalemated contract negotiations do not show some progress by next week.
“What we would hope is that we will hear from the county by Monday that they are willing to do some serious negotiating and make us a reasonable offer,” Robert J. MacLeod, general manager of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said after a daylong telephone poll of the union’s 800 members.
“If that’s not the case, then early next week our board of directors and negotiating team will get together to devise a strategy for job actions and begin implementing them,” he said.
Such job actions, MacLeod said, could range from a work slowdown like the one deputies staged for nine days during contract talks in 1979 “up to and including a work stoppage . . . a strike.”
MacLeod said the union hopes Friday’s 430-8 vote will “in itself convince the county not to underestimate our membership’s desires. We hope they will reassess their stand and bring this to a conclusion.”
John Sibley, the county’s director of employee relations, said Friday that the negotiators may be able to resume talks next week, possibly through a mediator.
“We hope there’s more movement and we can get back together and negotiate,” Sibley said. “The essence of negotiations is getting an agreement.”
As far as the outcome of the deputies’ job-action vote, Sibley replied: “There’s nothing I can say really. That’s their business. I hope they don’t do anything real stupid.”
Pointing out that he believes a strike by deputies would be illegal, Sibley said the Sheriff’s Department does have a contingency plan should a walkout occur.
Undersheriff Raul Ramos said: “We do have one (a plan) that could be implemented, but at this point we don’t feel things have reached a level where we should be concerned.”
The deputies and the county began negotiations April 8 on a new two-year contract to replace the current one that expires July 3.
In its latest offer, the union is seeking 6.8% salary and benefit hikes for each of the contract’s two years, while the county has offered 4.1% the first year and a maximum of 3.8% the second year, based on a formula of a 1% wage raise for each 2% increase in the consumer price index.
Talks Broke Off May 21
The talks first broke off May 21 when the union declared the negotiations were at an impasse, but both sides met again three days later with Los Alamitos Police Chief Jim Guess acting as a mediator.
Negotiations resumed Thursday but quickly collapsed with both sides blaming the other.
“The mediation session was very productive, and when we went to Thursday’s meeting, we expected negotiations to move along,” MacLeod said. “But the first thing they told us was that they had no more move to make. The whole meeting took eight minutes.”
Sibley said the union negotiators had asked for a break in Thursday’s talks to hold a caucus “and while we were waiting for them to return from the caucus, we were told that they had left. It usually doesn’t work that way. If someone’s going to leave, they usually say they’re going.”
In addition to the pay raises, Sibley said, the benefits the union is seeking include premium pay for the crews flying the Sheriff’s Department’s two helicopters and for members of the bomb squad, which amount to an additional 2.3% increase.
Under the current contract, Sibley said, the top annual salary levels are $34,000 for deputies, $40,000 for investigators and $42,000 for sergeants. In addition, he said, deputies and sergeants average $10,000 a year in overtime pay.
As for the union’s claim that deputies are not paid comparably to officers in other departments in the county, Sibley said, “We’re very much on a par, we’re very competitive.