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Most County of Orange government employees will receive a 2.5 percent raise in the coming months, under new labor contracts approved by county supervisors.

The new contracts cover nearly 11,000 county workers represented by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), including mental health workers, public health nurses, social workers, and sheriff’s special officers. OCEA represents most of the county’s roughly 17,200 employees.

Under the agreements, salaries for OCEA-represented employees were immediately raised 1.5 percent, with another 1 percent raise on January 4. The median pay for a county social worker, for example, was about $70,000 last year, plus $32,000 in median benefits.

OCEA’s prior labor contracts expired on June 22. The new contracts run for about one year, from June 23, 2018 until June 20, 2019.

County executives estimated the raises will cost $16 million this fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2019. Of that total, $11.4 million is estimated to come from the county’s discretionary money, which officials call “net county cost.”

Supervisors approved the six OCEA contracts unanimously on a 4-0 vote last Tuesday, July 31, with Supervisor Shawn Nelson absent.

The contracts cover 10,859 county employees represented by OCEA, with about 560 different job classifications. Among the jobs are library clerks, civil engineers, accountants, election workers, therapists, mental health nurses, and more than 100 jail employees who are not sworn officers.

The cost of living in the Los Angeles-Orange County region has increased 4 percent over the last year, and an average of 2 percent in each of the prior two years, according to federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Asked if the labor contract cost increase is already factored into the current county budget, which took effect July 1, county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson said it was not.

County departments “are requested to attempt to absorb the increases resulting from the OCEA contract within their current budget,” she added.

“The CEO Budget Office works with departments to monitor budgets on a monthly basis.  Each department is unique and depending upon the actual revenue and expenses, budget adjustments may or may not be necessary.”

Data provided by county executives shows OCEA employees receiving a roughly 2.5 percent raise in each of the last three years, including last week’s contract approval.

Sheriff’s deputies, who are represented by a different union, received a 2.5 percent increase in the 2017 fiscal year, followed by a 3 percent raise in the 2018 fiscal year and another 3 percent raise this fiscal year, according to the county data.

In addition to the salary bump, the new contracts provide additional pay when OCEA-represented jail workers and sheriff’s special officers perform training.

Correctional services assistants and technicians, who work in county jails, will receive an extra $1 per hour in premium pay when conducting training, under to the new contract. Sheriff’s special officers will receive an extra $2 per hour.

The 280 sheriff’s special officers provide security at local courts and county buildings – including John Wayne Airport and county jails – and are represented by OCEA.

Sheriff’s deputies, who are officially called deputy sheriffs, are represented by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, also known as AOCDS.

Last year, Orange County employed about 1,500 deputy sheriffs, according to the website Transparent California. The median pay for an OC deputy sheriff was about $125,000 last year, plus $85,000 in median benefits.

The new contracts also create working groups between county management and OCEA-represented employees to discuss several topics: a transition from annual leave to a sick and vacation leave program; bilingual premium pay; and benefits and healthcare.

[Click here to read a summary of the new labor contracts and the full text of the contracts.]

Like many labor contract staff reports in public meeting agendas, county executives’ staff report for the OCEA contracts did not say whether the raises will increase the county’s pension obligations, and if so by how much.

Contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter @nicholasgerda.

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