Orange County sheriff's deputies said they will "implement some sort of job action" today in reaction to Monday's break-off of contract talks, despite an initial offer from the county, according to the general manager of the 1,100-member deputies' union.
"We tried all day to refine that offer to something we could sell to our members, but we were unable to do so. . . . We were unable to come to an agreement," said Bob MacLeod, general manager of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which represents about 98% of all deputies.
"We will be implementing some sort of job action just as soon as possible," said MacLeod, who delined to say what form the job action will take.
MacLeod said it will begin today "as soon as we can get things moving."
John Sibley, Orange County's director of employee relations, said county negotiators had met with the union in a mediation session on Monday, hopeful that "we were going to reach agreement."
"That fell apart about 5 o'clock, and they walked out," Sibley said.
Although MacLeod declined to discuss the details of the negotiations, Sibley said the county had offered a 12.5% salary increase over three years and several improvements in premium pay.
"But the union wanted 16% over three years and more improvements," Sibley said.
The county had initially offered no raises and only a one-year contract, Sibley said. The sheriff's deputies' union previously had sought a one-year contract with a 12.5% pay increase, he said.
"We moved a lot," Sibley said. "I think we got real close, and we thought we had the makings of at least an offer they could take to their membership for a vote. They walked out, saying they were going to do what they had to do.
"It's up to them right now."
Sibley said the county's offer would increase the county's costs by $3.9 million over three years.
MacLeod said, "The county had told us previously they could make no offer that would result in a cost increase for the 1987-88 fiscal year.
"We made a multiyear offer which met that criteria," McLeod said.
The union's offer would have cost the county nothing in the first year, he said: "We aren't out to pillage the county's coffers. Our demands weren't exorbitant; our position now isn't exorbitant. I feel very confident that the public will support our position if and when they have all the facts."
Sibley said county administrators "won't retaliate" against sheriff's deputies involved in job actions: "We'll deal with whatever action they take. e're confident they won't risk the health and safety of the public."
Dozens of sheriff's deputies stayed away from work in two "sickouts" at branch jails last year during contract talks.
There are eight unions representing county employees that have been working without contracts for more than a month. In addition to the sheriff's deputies, those contracts cover clerical workers, heavy machinery operators and maintenance crews. In all, 12,000 of the county's 14,000 employees are working without contracts.
The memberships of three of the unions--including the sheriff's deputies--have overwhelmingly passed strike authorization votes.
The county, facing one of the tightest budgets it has had in years, has insisted that there is no money available to pay salary increases for any of its employees.
The elimination of more than 100 jobs, including 45 layoffs, will be forced by the $1.7-billion budget that the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve later this month, County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish has said.
The unions, however, believe that the county has received enough unanticipated money from the state and other sources to pay for raises. They blame the Board of Supervisors for having faulty spending priorities.
Besides the sheriff's deputies, three of the other unions also have negotiations with the county scheduled for this week. And some of the union leaders said their sessions might also trigger job actions if there are no wage increases offered by the county.
"We're all kind of in the same boat," said Fred Lowe, director of the Service Employees International Union with 565 members.
Lowe said that he is scheduled to meet with county negotiators today and that, if there is no wage increase offered, the union will immediately consider a job action, including a possible strike.
Ann Imparata of the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees, representing 530 Orange County workers, said that she will meet with the county on Wednesday.