After an extended discussion and time spent in closed session, the San Benito County supervisors decided Tuesday to delay any action on a resolution to cap vacation accrual for unrepresented employees. The issue of a vacation cap, retirement contributions, work furloughs and step freezes will be discussed at the next budget committee meeting and then brought back before the full board at a future meeting.
The supervisors approved the vote 4 to 1, with Jaime De La Cruz casting the lone dissenting vote.
County Administrative Officer Rich Inman placed a resolution at the request of De La Cruz that would have capped vacation accrual for new unrepresented employees, a group that includes managers as well as staff who handle confidential matters, at two times the employees’ yearly accrual rate. Existing employees in the unit – which is not represented by a union as five other employee groups are – would stop accruing vacation time if they had vacation credit in excess of two times the employees’ accrual rate. The reso
lution also included a mandate that existing employees who have vacation time above the cap be required to use six days a month on dates convenient to the county until such time that their vacation time falls below the cap.
At a Feb. 28 public workshop regarding the budget, members of the Service Employees International Union encouraged county supervisors to put a cap on vacation time for managers. In the past, when executives have retired, the county has had to pay out substantial amounts in accrued vacation time, sometimes amounting to payouts of more than $100,000 above regular retirement benefits.
In the agenda item, Inman noted that “the only issue staff has with the resolution is the requirement that at least six days of vacation be used every month for those who are over the cap amount. That should be a target requirement but consideration must be given for situations where that is not possible.”
At the lengthy board meeting on Tuesday, the supervisors postponed the discussion of the vacation accrual until the afternoon session. When they returned to the chambers at 1:15 p.m., they had a second resolution for vacation accrual that was different than the one originally on the agenda. The second resolution included compromises supported by SEIU members and bargaining units who had met with the budget committee after the agenda had been distributed. At the meeting, a member of the unrepresented group questioned why they were not included in the discussion about crafting the resolution.
While De La Cruz asked if the supervisors could proceed with the agenda item, Supervisor Robert Rivas asked if they could adopt the second resolution during the meeting.
County Counsel Matthew Granger said that they would not be able to pass the second resolution on Tuesday as it was not included on the agenda, but the supervisors agreed to open up the item to public comment.
Members of SEIU spoke in favor of a cap for management, saying that “this resolution will go a long way to improving relationships.” They said the bargaining units have long had a cap on their vacation accrual.
“We need to cut unnecessary, costly perks,” said Karen Rogers, the local chapter secretary. “All county employees should be treated fairly and I hope leadership eliminates the costly car allowance and improves efficiency.”
Another member said the vacation accrual payouts have “resulted in elimination of important services.”
Jackie Credico, a human resource analyst who falls into the unrepresented category of county employees, spoke out against the process that the supervisors used in crafting the resolutions. She said that while other bargaining units are allowed negotiators to negotiate their hours, wages and vacation accruals, the unrepresented employees should have been considered in the discussion before a resolution was brought to the board for approval.
“It’s no secret that this resolution was crafted by SEIU and presented to the board,” Credico said. “The manner by which this resolution came about is out of the ordinary. I would ask that you continue it to another date to allow for more appropriate language.”
She said the unrepresented groups accrue vacation at the same rate as the bargaining units, based on seniority.
“First I want to apologize to the unrepresented groups and staff for not having handled this with the process that is in place,” Supervisor Margie Barrios said. “There is an urgency to move forward, but we owe respect and consideration to all employees. In retrospect I wish this had happened differently.”
Barrios said the unrepresented group of workers had submitted some notes about vacation caps to the budget committee the day before, but they had come too late to be included in the meeting.
“They didn’t feel they had an opportunity to present their thoughts, ideas or anything else on the resolution before you,” Barrios said.
Supervisors Botelho and De La Cruz pushed for a vote on the resolution, while Jerry Muenzer, Barrios and Rivas wanted more time to look at the issue. After going into closed session for further discussion, they voted 4 to 1 to continue the discussion at the next budget committee meeting.