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O.C. Gives on Pay, Takes in Retirement

September 27, 2006|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved labor contracts with unions representing attorneys and managers, granting pay raises of as much as 4.75% in exchange for concessions on retiree medical coverage.

The agreements, approved by the rank and file, are modeled on deals with two larger unions that the board adopted this month after vociferous opposition from retired county employees and lengthy speeches by supervisors. No opponents spoke against the deals this time, and the board adopted them with no discussion.

The concessions are intended to reduce a $1.4-billion deficit in the county's retiree medical fund, which has grown because of medical inflation and increased costs due to employees living longer. The cost of funding the plan has consumed an ever-larger share of county resources, growing to about $130 million this year.

Deals struck this month with unions representing more than 13,000 county employees were expected to reduce the deficit by $566 million. The deals with the Orange County Managers Assn. and the Orange County Attorneys Assn., which represent about 1,500 employees, are expected to save $67 million.

When the county completes negotiations with all of its unions, which include those representing sheriff's deputies and operating engineers, it hopes to reduce the deficit by a total of $815 million.

The biggest savings in the retiree medical concessions come from shifting the cost of retired workers' insurance onto the retirees themselves, while reducing the cost of insuring active employees. The county is also cutting the monthly medical grants for retirees in half once they become eligible for Medicare.

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christian.berthelsen@latimes.com

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