San Joaquin County Correctional Officer’s Association Challenges Piece of New Pension Reform Law

By Paul Goyette

The San Joaquin County Correctional Officer’s Association has recently filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) alleging that San Joaquin County violated the California Pension Reform Act of 2013 when it imposed pension related concessions on the Association on January 28, 2013.  Following a lengthy set of contract negotiations, the Declaration of an Impasse and the exhaustion of an impasse procedure, including mediation, the County imposed its Last, Best and Final Offer on January 28, 2013.  However, one of the concessions it imposed upon the Association was a cost sharing measure for retiree cost of living increases.  The net effect is that each Association member is paying approximately 4.5% more toward his or her pension contribution. 

The California Pension Reform Act of 2013 applies to a wide variety of pension systems including San Joaquin County Employee Retirement Association.  Government Code section 31365.5 authorizes the County to require employees to pay up to 50% of the normal cost of their retirement contribution.  However, most importantly, section 31365.5 specifically states that this subsection does not take effect until January 1, 2018.  In other words, the County is precluded from imposing this particular contract term on the Association until January 1, 2018.  Notwithstanding, the County did precisely that. 

The Association’s Unfair Labor Practice Charge with PERB appears to be the first challenge to the Pension Reform Act of 2013 which only took effect in January, of this year. One purpose of the act was to allow employers and employee organizations five years to negotiate the pension reform terms. After that, employers could begin imposing those reforms. The Association is hopeful to obtain a ruling from PERB that the County’s imposition of the contract was unlawful and that it be rescinded in its entirety.