MARTINEZ -- A strike by Contra Costa County prosecutors has been averted by a new labor contract ratified by the deputy district attorneys union Wednesday night.

Deputy public defenders, who've also been mulling a possible work action, were set to vote on a mirror contract offer Thursday night.

Contra Costa's prosecutors and public defenders, among the lowest-paid public criminal attorneys in the Bay Area, have been struggling with crushing caseloads caused by an exodus of experienced colleagues and budget-driven vacancies.

"We're glad we've reached an agreement to avoid a potential strike, because ultimately a strike would damage the operation of our criminal justice system, and nobody wants that," Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, of Richmond, said. "We appreciate their sacrifice in these difficult financial times, and we look forward in the future to improving salaries."

The vast majority of the Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorneys Association voted to strike after county supervisors on Sept. 1 imposed on them an employment contract that reduced their overall compensation by more than 8 percent, union treasurer Mary Knox said. That equaled more than $700 out of the attorneys' monthly paycheck, Knox said.

Negotiations continued, and the deputy district attorneys on Wednesday night accepted the county's latest offer, a contract that softens the pay cut over time, returning them to their former salary level by July 2014. The union also agreed to a new retirement tier for incoming county employees that officials say will provide the county tremendous long-term savings.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the ratified agreement Tuesday.

"It is never an easy thing to ask our members to agree to cuts in pay and benefits," Barry Grove, president of the Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorneys Association, said in a news release. "But, in these difficult financial times, our members stepped up to ensure that the critical public safety services we provide to the public are maintained."

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.

salary changes
The contract agreement ratified by Contra Costa County deputy district attorneys includes a new retirement tier and the following structure for pay cuts and raises:
  • Effective Sept. 1: 5.24 percent pay cut
  • Effective Nov. 1: Pay cut is reduced to 3.75 percent
  • Effective July 1, 2013: Pay cut is reduced to 2.75 percent
  • Effective Jan. 1, 2014: 1.5 percent pay increase over July 2013 wage
  • Effective July 1, 2014: 2 percent increase over July 2013
  • Net effect: 0.675 percent pay increase