County supervisors have given their outside labor consultant a hefty raise while praising the firm, a move county employees’ chief negotiator called “insulting.”
Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP will receive an unanticipated $100,000 between now and June 30. Its original contract for the current fiscal year was for $190,000.
The county brought on RSHS last year to help restructure employee relations. As part of that move, Human Relations Director Tami Douglas-Schatz was named the county’s chief labor negotiator.
Douglas-Schatz, who has been working with RSHS, said in a report to the Board of Supervisors that the work is intense, with “wholesale changes being made to the contract negotiation and administration process.”
In an e-mail to The Tribune, Douglas-Schatz said the county is moving on three major fronts in its negotiations with employee bargaining units:
Second-tier pension plans, under which new employees would get less generous benefits than current employees;
An increased employee-paid share of pension costs, with a 50-50 split sought; and
Changing the application of the prevailing wage ordinance — specifically, expanding the counties used for comparison.
Douglas-Schatz said the three efforts are “significant” and require “a lot of bargaining sessions to thoroughly discuss and bargain in good faith.”
In addition, some unexpected actions have added to the workload, she wrote. For example, one union fought an internal struggle over who would represent it, which consumed management’s time as well. In addition, the county has faced legal challenges from some of its unions.
These, she wrote, “take time to address. These actions also impact our bargaining strategy, which also takes response and strategy time.”
Further, Douglas-Schatz wrote, “both the county and the people across the table are digging in, in these tough economic times.”
“We’ve greatly increased participation in the labor relations process,” she wrote, including the practice of having department heads participate.
With all these reasons for increasing the payment to RSHS, supervisors did not balk at approving the request Tuesday.
However, Kimm Daniels, general manager for the 1,400-member San Luis Obispo County Employees Association, criticized both the size of the increase and the tone of the staff report.
She said she was “concerned” about a $100,000 increase for 31⁄2 months work.
Daniels complained that the report gave “no credit at all” to people who work for the county.County employees are doing more work with fewer people, she said, and the report is insulting to them.
Last year, when the board first hired RSHS, Daniels said she was “horrified” that the county was spending money to contract out work that she said could be done internally.
Supervisor Jim Patterson said the board appreciates its employees.
There are more than 2,400 county employees, 80 percent of whom are represented by 16 bargaining units.
About 60 percent of the county’s operating budget is personnel costs.