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Sheriff’s Deputies, County Reach Tentative Accord

Times Staff Writer

County officials and the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs reached tentative agreement late Friday on a new wage contract, according to Robert J. MacLeod, general manager of the 800-member union.

The agreement was surprising, MacLeod said, coming as it did on the heels of several “sickouts” staged by sheriff’s deputies in recent weeks and talk of a possible strike.

“Tonight’s meeting started out looking like an agreement was not possible, but it turned out we did arrive at an agreement,” he added. Terms of the tentative contract were not revealed.

“We’re not crowing from the rooftops on this settlement at all,” MacLeod said. “Our negotiating team was faced with the decision of either accepting a settlement that was marginally acceptable or involving ourselves in very serious job actions that would have definitely had adverse impact on the public.”

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Members of the deputy sheriffs association will have a chance to vote on the proposed contract at meetings this Monday, he said.

Earlier, MacLeod said he doubted that the return to the bargaining table would lead to contract terms acceptable to the membership.

“I doubt the county will be willing to increase their offer,” the general manager said before the meeting.

Deputies had staged two so-called “sickouts,” protesting what the union had called an impasse in negotiations for a two-year contract. The present contract expires July 3.

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Three-fourths of the deputies scheduled to patrol the north and south county called in sick last week, and 16 deputies were absent from their assignments at the county’s two minimum security jails on Wednesday.

John Sibley, the county’s director of employee relations, could not be reached for comment on the contract settlement. However, Sibley had said that the county would not buckle under to what he termed “extortion” attempts by the union to obtain salary and benefits increases.

“If our effort is unsuccessful,” MacLeod stated Friday in a flyer sent to union members, “we will deal with final preparations for major job actions.”

Those job actions could include a strike, MacLeod said.

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The county maintained that a strike would be illegal, although the union countered that a state Supreme Court decision last year held that it is not “statutorily illegal.”

Cites Mass Resignations

Beside, MacLeod added, “what the hell are they going to do if 900 deputies hand in their resignations?”

MacLeod said: “Our negotiations team returned to the bargaining table in a last effort to arrive at a tentative agreement without having to resort to job actions which would present a significant danger to deputies, the public or inmates.”

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On May 30, sheriff’s deputies overwhelmingly gave the association approval to call for job actions, including a complete work stoppage, if contract negotiations did not show some progress.

The county made what it called its final offer on June 9. The union rejected the offer and contract negotiations were halted.

The union has been seeking a two-year package that would give deputies a 5.75% salary increase in each of the contract’s two years. The county has offered a 4.75% increase for the first year and a 4% increase the second year, the same percentages that other county employees have been given.

Sibley had said that the county will not raise its offer because it is fair and, in part, because other county employees have received the same increase.

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