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Ventura County employees set to vote on 27-month contract

July 26, 2007|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County employees approved a tentative labor agreement and will begin voting whether to ratify the new contract within days, a union leader said Wednesday.

About 4,000 county government workers would receive salary hikes totaling 7.5% over the 27 months of the contract, said Jeannette Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union.

In addition, about 700 employees qualify for adjustments that would bring them up to market rate for similar jobs in surrounding counties and cities, Sanchez said.

The first 3% salary hike would be retroactive to July 15, with the remainder spread out over two years. In addition, the union won hikes in the monthly amount county employees receive to pay for medical premiums.

The so-called flexible credit would increase to $260 per pay period in December, up from $248, the union spokeswoman said. It would go to $273 biweekly in December 2008.

Negotiations with the county's largest union -- which represents workers such as clerks, social workers and librarians -- lasted four months. SEIU Local 998 was considering authorizing a strike vote in the days before the agreement was reached Tuesday, Sanchez said.

"It's a big relief because it has been four months of bargaining," she said. "The county came up with more money at the end and the members feel appreciated."

John Nicoll, the county's chief negotiator, said workers had been offered fair wages and health benefits in the multiyear contract.

"It was an important contract to settle,'' Nicoll said.

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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