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SLO social worker stays up all night to stop child abuse — but gets paid for 3 hours, she says

San Luis Obispo County employees speak to the board as strike starts

Three striking San Luis Obispo County workers address the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors during public comment on Tuesday, December, 11, 2018.
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Three striking San Luis Obispo County workers address the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors during public comment on Tuesday, December, 11, 2018.

Update, 6 p.m. Wednesday:

The County of San Luis Obispo responded to Haggerty’s testimony saying, “employees are valued and those who work after hours are compensated for their time. We do not expect employees to work without pay.”

Employees placed on standby/on-call receive a special hourly rate of $3 an hour for each hour of the standby shift assigned. Employees who perform work after hours receive some combination of standby pay, overtime pay at time-and-a-half, and/or call-back pay depending on the circumstances.

Original story:

Alison Haggerty held a handmade sign reading, “My family stays up all night so I can protect yours.”

She was at the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to explain how a change in reimbursements affects her family.

A social worker with San Luis Obispo County Child Welfare Services, she is one of hundreds of county employees who are on strike, demanding better wages and benefits.

“It’s unfair and not right. I love my job, and I’m happy that there are people like me and my co-workers that are passionate about helping the families of SLO County,” Haggerty said. “But I’m standing here today with that sign to fight for fairness for me and my family.”

She and other workers who take on-call shifts were recently told that they’ll be reimbursed differently. On-call staff used to be paid for a minimum of 2 hours whenever they were called to work, like in the middle of the night to take reports of child abuse.

“On my last on-call night shift, I got calls to report child abuse every hour throughout the night starting at 11:30 p.m.,” Haggerty told the supervisors. “Each time the phone rang, my husband and I were jolted awake and I went in the living room to take the report. Right as I was starting to fall back asleep, I got the next call.”

Now, after the recent contract negotiations, they’re paid for a minimum of 30 minutes.

“That shift, I was awake for 14 hours. But because of the 75 percent reduction in after-hours pay, I got paid for three hours,” Haggerty said.

It’s one of a handful of issues raised by striking employees who say they feel unappreciated, calling it essentially a pay cut in a time that county employees are already underpaid in comparison to similar jobs in other counties.

Social workers in San Luis Obispo County make an average of 23 percent less than colleagues from comparable agencies in El Dorado, Kern, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Placer, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties, according to a fact-finding report made during contract negotiations by a neutral third-party.

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