Opinion

Tuesday, Jun 05 2012 07:49 AM

Commentary: Scrivner -- 'I will not accept this raise'

On May 29, 2012, the Kern County Board of Supervisors increased the pay and the employee contribution to health care and retirement for its management, mid-management, and confidential employees and all county elected officials.

Let's begin with the Board of Supervisors' salary and let me make this point clear. Like Supervisor Karen Goh, I am publicly stating that I will not accept this raise.

Thirteen years ago, the then Board of Supervisors established the current mechanism for establishing elected officials' salary increases, and Tuesday, we asked the CAO to provide other options for the Board's consideration. Once again, I am not accepting this raise, and I look forward to considering a different approach to this process.

Regarding employee raises, for a number of years, the board has been negotiating with all unions representing county employees. These negotiations have not been easy for either side, but the outcome was well worth the effort. All represented employees will now make employee contributions to their health and retirement benefits. Further, new public safety employees will be receiving the lowest pensions allowable by state law (parenthetically, since 2007 all new, non-safety county employees have received the lowest pension benefits allowed by state law); this will save county taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the future. In return for increased employee contributions and reduced retirement benefits, most union employees will receive a two percent salary increase in the second year of their three-year agreements.

It was now time to consider our employees not represented by unions. The unrepresented employees include clerical, legal, technical, and management employees who, for the most part, work alongside or manage the employees represented by SEIU. Traditionally, the Board of Supervisors treated unrepresented employees the same as SEIU employees.

However, three years ago this changed. In 2009, the board asked SEIU to defer the four percent raise they were due to receive in the last year of their agreement; however, SEIU declined. In an effort to lead by example, the board chose to defer the four percent raise for the unrepresented employees, thereby creating an inequity.

Earlier this year, the board reached agreement with nearly all of the unions, which included a two percent salary increase over three years. It was now time for the board to restore the four percent raise for unrepresented employees that was deferred in 2009, and the two percent granted SEIU. We also required all of the 300-plus unrepresented employees to now contribute to their health benefits and retirement, as will their counterparts in SEIU.

After years of negotiation and agreements achieved with the union employees this year, it was only appropriate to provide equity between union and non-union employees. I am glad we did so. Employees at the county should not be penalized for not belonging to a union.

I have heard people question the timing of this action. For me, it's always the right time to do the right thing for the right reasons.

ZACK SCRIVNER is Chairman of the Kern County Board of Supervisors. He is a Tehachapi resident.

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