About 2,300 Contra Costa County civil servants stayed off the job in a demand for higher pay, authorities reported. Paul Katz of Public Employees Union Local 1 said it was decided to have a one-day protest to "see if that jogs (the county) into a negotiating position." The hardest hit was the county's Merrithew Memorial Hospital, where 300 licensed vocational nurses, lab and radiology technicians and housekeeping and security personnel failed to report to work. The walkout did not affect sheriff's deputies or registered nurses. Union negotiators called for the walkout after the county rejected a demand for a 9% pay increase over two years. The county has offered 6%.