SF Superior Clerks Agree to New Pay Deal

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Clerks at San Francisco Superior Court approved an agreement over wages and benefits Tuesday evening after nearly nine months of wrangling with court administrators.
     The deal, which will last until July 2015, calls for an immediate $3,500 bonus, a 3 percent pay hike next year and fresh wage negotiations in the third year.
     Other gains for the clerks include increased health care contributions by the court and more flexible vacation, work and holiday schedules.
     The court’s spokeswoman, Ann Donlan, refused to comment on the deal.
     Both sides have been in talks since February expiration of the old contract with the Service Employees International Local 1021, which represents most of the court’s clerks.
     Negotiations came to a head in July when the court imposed a 5 percent wage cut, and union members responded with a one-day walkout.
     Court Executive Officer Michael Yuen had said then that the pay cut would resolve budget cuts and “preserve access to justice to the greatest extent possible, while also saving court employee jobs.”
     But he quickly rescinded the cut as the walkout caused confusion and delays at the court’s civil and criminal divisions.
     “Our voices have been heard,” union bargaining team member Priscilla Agbunag said Tuesday night after the vote.
     Agbunag, who is a clerk in the civil division, said the July walkout and a rally earlier this month showed administrators that the clerks were serious.
     “I think they were trying to drag it out, but we’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We love our jobs and what we do and all we wanted was respect, and I believe they heard us.”
     Union spokesman Steve Stallone said just one vote was tallied against accepting the agreement, with 215 votes for the deal.
     “The court didn’t expect us to make them change course,” Stallone said.
     He added that the July walkout caused a pivotal disruption to court functions.
     “It was a full close-down,” Stallone said. “They couldn’t let that happen again.”
     The tentative agreement came after an Oct. 4 rally showed the clerks’ resolve and encouraged court negotiators to sit down for two full days of bargaining, he added.
     “We’re relieved,” Stallone said. “It’s been a nine-month ride.”
     California’s recent budget problems hit San Francisco Superior Court hard and set the stage for the labor dispute. In July 2011, Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein announced that 200 court workers would lose their jobs in a belt-tightening that would also result in closed courtrooms, reduced public access and delays in justice across the system.
     In the end, 67 employees were let go, mainly court reporters.
     Three unions represent workers at San Francisco Superior, and last night’s agreement was with the largest. The other two unions reached agreements with the court in February that included the 5 percent wage cut, but Stallone said that the wage components of those agreements are back on the table.
     One of the other unions is the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21, AFL-CIO, which includes staff attorneys and information technology workers. The other union is the Municipal Executives Association, representing supervisors.

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