MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa supervisors voted Tuesday to impose a labor contract on county prosecutors that includes deep pay cuts, despite District Attorney Mark Peterson's assertion that he can find savings the county needs elsewhere in his budget.
"I can give you the money you need," Peterson told the Board of Supervisors before it voted 4-1 to impose the one-year labor contract that calls for a 5.24 percent wage cut, effective Sept. 1, and would make the attorneys 100 percent responsible for the employee share of contributions to retirement benefits.
The District Attorney's Office is the most understaffed, overworked prosecutorial unit in the Bay Area, and cutting compensation further will hurt morale and likely lead to more attorneys leaving, Peterson said.
He said he is tired of experienced attorneys leaving to work in neighboring counties, hindering the office's ability to man caseloads and crime-prevention programs that he says will save the county millions of dollars long term.
The supervisors said they were only able to pass a balanced budget this year because the county's employee unions have made sacrifices, and that deputy district attorneys need to do the same. Some supervisors said that any savings Peterson could provide in his budget should be used to fill vacancies, thereby enhancing services to the community.
Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville, the lone dissenter, said she wants to let Peterson prove his
"We need to pay to keep experienced DAs here," Andersen said. "We can't treat every bargaining unit identically."
This is the first time that the county has imposed a contract on any of its labor unions since it became an option for labor negotiations that are at an impasse under state law, Supervisor John Gioia, of Richmond, said.
Andersen said she doesn't believe that the deputy DAs and the county are at an impasse and, contrary to the opinion of some of her colleagues, she believes the prosecutors have been more willing to negotiate than the county.
The prosecutors say they have been discussing striking, and could challenge the contract in labor court.
"First and foremost, we would like to come to a deal," said Barry Grove, head of the Contra Costa Deputy District Attorneys Association. "If the county won't bargain in good faith, we have no choice but to explore other avenues, like litigation."
The board said the county will invite the attorneys to return to the bargaining table, and maybe they can reach an agreement before the imposed contract goes into effect. They want the prosecutors to agree to a new retirement tier for incoming employees that would save the county millions in future pension costs -- a contract stipulation that they couldn't legally impose on the union.
The county is trying to get this by offering a 2 percent longevity pay raise after 20 years of service and 12 extra hours of administrative leave, but the prosecutors aren't keen on the so-called pot sweeteners because they already have more vacation hours than they can take without derailing their cases and other county unions have negotiated better longevity pay or raises.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.