Union, county reach accord

A union representing more than 400 Orange County workers has approved a new labor agreement with the county, extending its term to June 11, 2015.

The Alliance of Orange County Workers — which ratified the agreement last month following a lengthy series of negotiations — includes maintenance workers, auto mechanics, custodians and landfill equipment operators.

The previous contract expired in 2012, according to a news release.

"We're thankful to the AOCW for working with us to reach an agreement that recognizes the budgetary strain on the county," county Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson said in a statement.

According to the release, AOCW members pay their full pension contributions, and new workers will be hired at a lower pension benefit.

Current employees' pensions will be 2.7% of their salaries, multiplied by the number of years they worked for the county, with retirement eligibility at age 55, according to county spokeswoman Jean Pasco.

For new hires, that number will drop to 1.62%, with retirement eligibility at 65.

The union's president, Delbert Farley, described the contract as "basically status quo."

"It was hard to accept this contract and this agreement," he said, "but we felt that in light of the fiscal situation the county's in, we felt it was best everybody agree to this and everybody gets to keep their jobs."

Negotiations are still underway for four of the seven unions representing county workers, and talks are getting started with the Orange County Managers Assn. to renegotiate its agreement, which is set to expire Thursday, the release said.

Farley said the AOCW, with about 432 members, is a union of blue collar workers.

"We're at the low end of the scale," he said. "The very low end."

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