The State Worker

California state engineers reach contract deal with Jerry Brown

Professional Engineers in California Government Executive Director Bruce Blanning.
Professional Engineers in California Government Executive Director Bruce Blanning.

California’s state engineers’ union said Monday that it has reached a tentative labor agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown that includes pay raises, although it declined to detail concessions it made on the administration’s signature issue – retiree health benefits.

The three-year deal with Professional Engineers in California Government, or PECG, is retroactive to July 2, 2015, said Bruce Blanning, the union’s executive director, and gives its 13,000 members a 5 percent raise in July 2016 with a 2 percent raise one year later. The deal expires June 30, 2018.

“We wound up with a contract that we certainly would have liked to have more; that’s the nature of bargaining, Blanning said, “but this is a contract that seemed reasonable for our members.”

The agreement also requires that employees contribute to their retiree health benefits with an employer match, Blanning said, but it defers those payments until mid-2017 and would be a consideration when contract talks resume in the spring of that same year.

Blanning wouldn’t disclose specifics about the retiree-benefits contribution terms Monday afternoon because, he said, the union wanted to communicate those details with its members directly on Tuesday instead of through media reports.

A spokesman for the Department of Human Resources, which bargains on behalf of the governor, declined to comment on the engineers’ agreement.

As a group, unionized state engineers are among the highest-paid employees in government, with regular annual pay averaging $94,147 for calendar 2014, according to state payroll data.

PECG is the first union to reach an agreement among four groups working under the terms of contracts that expired earlier this summer. Negotiators representing craft and maintenance employees, prison officers and scientists all face a Sept. 11 deadline to reach terms. After that, the Legislature will be in recess and unable to vote on any agreements until January. Unions without deals in the next few days will have to continue working under the terms of their expired contracts until next year.

In theory, the engineers’ tentative contract doesn’t affect the other unions because they bargain separately. In practice, however, agreements reached earlier tend to establish limits for subsequent contracts. Some agreements contain “most-favored nation” clauses that allow a union to reopen talks if a later contract with another group is more generous.

The engineers’ contract, however, does not contain such a clause.