Orange County supervisors this week reached a tentative labor deal with the county government’s largest union that includes the first significant raises for workers since the Great Recession hit.

The tentative deal with the Orange County Employees Association calls for an immediate 4.5-percent salary increase, followed by 2.5 percent raises in July 2016 and 2017. Workers would also receive three $500 payments between January 2016 and December 2017.

The terms of the new deal also set up working groups for employees to collaborate with management on ways to make the county run more efficiently and reduce taxpayer costs.

The groups would be aimed at reforming the county’s annual leave rules and creating “programs to  reward outstanding performance and cost savings within teams, County departments and the County as a whole,” according to a county news release.

“The proposed tentative agreement reflects the Board [of Supervisors’] continued focus on working in partnership with its employees to enhance health and wellness in ways that are both cost effective and promote improved health, and on compensation that rewards the County’s hard-working employees while maintaining fiscal prudence,” the county release stated.

Supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer said he’s happy with the proposed deal, noting sacrifices made by workers in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

“I am excited about reaching a three-year agreement with our dedicated and committed county employees. They made significant sacrifices since the economic decline yet worked everyday to provide quality service to our county citizens,” Spitzer said in a statement.

OCEA represents approximately two-thirds of the county workforce, or 10,900 employees out of a total of 16,200.

OCEA members went nearly five years — beginning in July 2009 — without any across-the-board raises. In March 2014, union members received a raise of 1.25 percent, and then a one-time 1.25-percent bonus the following month.

The prior agreement, from July 2007 through June 2009, increased salaries between 2.5 percent and 5 percent, “with the higher raises going to those whose positions were deemed to be below-market based on a market-rate study,” according to county spokeswoman Jean Pasco.

The deal now goes for a vote by OCEA’s membership, as well as a vote by supervisors at a special meeting next Wednesday. Supervisors are also holding a special meeting Friday morning to hear public comments, and possibly weigh in themselves publicly about the proposal.

“Our hearing Friday will highlight if the board missed any significant issues which is the basis for the [seven] day notice requirement,” Spitzer said.

If approved, the contract would run for about two and a half years, through the end of June 2018.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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