The State Worker

Bay Area vacancies net raises of up to 25 percent for blue collar California state workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom on state worker contracts

Gov. Gavin Newsom talks about state worker contracts during his budget proposal on Jan. 10, 2019.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom talks about state worker contracts during his budget proposal on Jan. 10, 2019.

Experienced heating and cooling specialists working for the state of California and living in the Bay Area could soon be getting raises up to about 25 percent under a new proposed contract.

A tentative agreement between Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and International Union of Operating Engineers Unit 13 gives raises to tenured employees while raising salary caps and offering higher pay in the greater Bay Area.

The union represents around 1,000 employees who maintain heating and cooling systems at state prisons, manage water and waste at state parks and handle HVAC at other state facilities. The agreement, posted to CalHR’s website Tuesday, would cost about $55 million over its three-year term. The agreement requires approval from union members and the Legislature.

About 90 percent of the union’s members are making maximum salaries for their jobs, prompting the increase to the salary caps, said Steve Crouch, IUOE’s director of public employees.

It raises salary caps by 2.75 percent effective this year; 3 percent next year and 2.75 percent the year after that. The biggest raise would be 25 percent for a worker with seniority, a top salary range and a position in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The union’s members make an average of $74,000 per year, Crouch said. The state has had trouble hiring and retaining stationary engineers, boiler operators and water and wastewater treatment plant operators because it pays less than competitors in local government and the private sector, according to Crouch and to CalHR salary surveys.

Crouch said the top-paid workers in those fields make 26.5 percent less on average than their counterparts. Crouch said vacancy rates are running near 25 percent at some state facilities in the Bay Area.

“We need to work with the state to address these recruitment and retention problems, and I think we came up with a good plan,” Crouch said. “It’s taken the state a decade to address these problems, and we’re glad they finally did.”

The proposal gives greater Bay Area workers a 5 percent boost per month.

It gives a 9 percent raise to employees with 13 years of experience; 7 percent for 10 years and 5 percent for seven years to boost recruitment and retention.

The agreement also provides $100- to $200-per-month differentials for specific job classifications and an $82-per-year stipend for work boots.

In 2022, some Unit 13 state safety workers will start paying 11.5 percent toward their retirements, up from 11 percent under the agreement.

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Wes Venteicher anchors The Bee’s popular State Worker coverage in the newspaper’s Capitol Bureau. He covers taxes, pensions, unions, state spending and California government. A Montana native, he reported on health care and politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh before joining The Bee in 2018.