Full-time union employees at the El Dorado Hills Community Services District are edging closer to a full blown strike as contract negotiations remain at a standstill 10 months after a new contract should have been negotiated.
Employees painted the rocks on El Dorado Hills Boulevard multiple times in recent days with messages including “CSD board cutting wages” and “Fair pay for superior services,” to “CSD — $12 million in the bank and cutting services” and “CSD board doesn’t value employees.” According to EDHCSD union president Terry Halvorson, the messages were either whitewashed within half an hour or changed to read conflicting messages including only “super services.”
“A relatively benign message on the rock makes our board and management pretty nervous,” Halvorson explained. “Do they not have confidence in their contract offer that results in a pay cut for 90 percent of the employees?”
Halvorson called the dispute “simple.” Full-time employees want to continue to receive cash in lieu of medical benefits if they already have benefits covered through a spouse. The new contract the board has offered eliminates it.
“We were all recruited and hired because of (the benefit),” Halvorson noted. “It is what made it possible for us to accept a lower salary in order to work for the CSD. We are simply asking that they ‘grandfather’ this benefit into the new contract for all current employees and that future hires be moved over to the new policy that eliminates this option.”
Halvorson noted that the reason for the contract change isn’t comparable to the current climate at the CSD. “The (CSD board’s) reason for eliminating this benefit has been to cite the case Flores v. the City of San Gabriel, in which overtime pay must be calculated at a rate including cash in lieu pay. This case was brought forth by police officers that accrued thousands of hours of overtime,” Halvorson continued. “A CSD audit revealed that the total overtime paid out to CSD staff over the last two years was $7,000; this includes hundreds of seasonal and part time staff. Overtime is simply something that rarely happens at the CSD. The cost basis to the district is negligible.”
Halvorson said he and the other 21 full-time employees are “discouraged” because the board “is sitting on a $12 million cash reserve that equates to a 100 percent reserve based on the fact that our annual budget is also around $12 million,” and, he added, “We think some of this money should be used to hire and retain great employees.”
“Overtime is budgeted by the district for staff members who may occasionally exceed 40 hours per week due to unforeseen circumstances,” EDHCSD General Manager Kevin Loewen responded when asked about these issues by Village Life. “Management and staff work to minimize such unforeseen circumstances through good management and planning for the needs of district operations. The district’s budget does have reserve funds, most of which are for replacement and construction of new and existing park and facility assets. Those funds are dedicated to projects and they fall short of the $140 million identified as needed within the 2016 Park and Recreation Facilities Master Plan.”
CSD employees brought signs to last Thursday’s monthly Board of Directors meeting and said they will continue to hold signs at the intersection of Harvard Way and El Dorado Hills Boulevard both before and after work.
“I work with amazing, skilled people who know their customers and serve the community with pride,” Halvorson said, echoing what employees told directors during public comment at the meeting. “The current contract offer would cause half our members to leave or retire, which would result in a great loss to our community. They simply could not afford to work here and at our pay scale we have not been able to attract skilled people. We have been forced to replace departing employees with under-qualified entry level recruits or simply leave positions unfilled … We look forward to getting a reasonable contract for both parties concerned so we can concentrate on what we do best: Serve the community of El Dorado Hills.”