Orange County sheriff's deputies, protesting stalled contract talks, staged a work slowdown Tuesday aimed at clogging the court system.
About 100 deputies in the department's transportation division followed meticulous, by-the-book procedures in processing and shuttling prisoners between jail and court, said Robert J. MacLeod, general manager of the 1,100-member Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
Deputies also conducted more frequent searches of inmates than usual in an effort to slow the court system, MacLeod said.
The action, which did not involve patrol deputies, posed no threat to public safety, spokesmen for the Sheriff's Department and the union said.
Union negotiators walked out of a mediation session Monday evening after rejecting a county offer of a 12.5% salary increase over three years and several improvements in premium pay, said John Sibley, director of employee relations and the county's lead negotiator.
The county's offer of a deferred pay raise was unacceptable, MacLeod said, "because the first raise would only be one-half per cent after eight months."
No new talks are scheduled. The deputies' previous contract expired July 3.
MacLeod said the work slowdown could continue for several days. If the county still does not respond, he said, deputies might begin picketing or stage a sickout.
Buses shuttling 377 inmates to the county's six courthouses Tuesday morning were running from half an hour to three hours late, Sheriff's Department spokesman Richard J. Olson said.
He said the department's major concern was returning the inmates to jail "in a timely manner" so as not to violate a 1978 federal court order requiring inmates to be permitted eight hours of sleep each night.