Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association Ratifies New MOU

Anthony Gomez
Second Vice President
Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association

On February 9, with the assistance of Messing Adam & Jasmine LLP, the Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association ratified a substantial new contract with the County of Fresno. This deal came about after many years of modest contract increases and even a painful decrease, which included furloughs and salary reductions at the onset of the Great Recession. Led by Chief Negotiator Gary Messing and FDSA President Eric Schmidt, the association was able to strike a deal that was flush with improvements and no takeaways for the membership.

Prior to entering into formal negotiations with the County, the FDSA Board polled its membership to determine the most pressing wants and needs throughout each job classification. As a result of this poll, emphasis was placed on salary improvements, but other realistic requests were also considered. The FDSA also utilized compensation surveys to compare the various classifications in the association with those in comparable jurisdictions. A forensic audit of the County’s finances was conducted in order to determine its fiscal health. Armed with this information, Gary Messing and Eric Schmidt began extensive conversations over a period of several months leading up to formal negotiations.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt attended every Board of Supervisors meeting in order to show an ongoing presence and to stay abreast of important topics being discussed. Additionally, the FDSA Political Action Committee endorsed and campaigned for candidates it believed would place an emphasis on public safety. Eric also continued to build upon an already strong relationship with Fresno County Director of Personnel Services Paul Nerland. Eric and Paul had numerous conversations, and agreed that the FDSA should be rewarded for many years of cooperation during hard times. Paul recognized that the FDSA always led the way for other bargaining units as an example of collaboration.

The DSA was also able to convince the County that the wage disparity between Fresno County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers and their counterparts in other agencies could no longer be ignored. After a salary compensation study was completed, the County agreed to immediately grant a 10% salary increase to all dispatchers in the FDSA in order to address retention and recruitment in the communications center, which has endured a drastic reduction in staffing levels. This salary increase at the dispatcher level is on top of the additional benefits gained in the new contract for the entire association.

The newly ratified MOU spans a time frame of almost three years, concluding in December 2019. The MOU bestows improvements to all classifications in the bargaining unit, which includes

deputy sheriffs, dispatchers, deputy coroners, identification technicians, community service officers, crime lab personnel and the rangemaster. The prominent feature of this MOU is that all members will receive a 5% salary increase in July 2017, another 5% increase in July 2018 and a final 5% in July 2019. Compounded, these result in an almost 16% salary increase over the life of the contract.

Over the course of the contract term, health insurance contributions from the County to each member will increase from $243 to $298 biweekly for member-only health plans. For members with dependent coverage, the health insurance contributions increase from $333 to $448 biweekly. This equates to an increased benefit of $120 per month for members without dependent coverage and $250 for members with dependent coverage.

The FDSA Insurance Trust is personally managed by its own members and is separate from the various Fresno County health plans that are offered. The FDSA Insurance Trust recently negotiated

two consecutive years of reductions to its health plans, which resulted in a total savings of about 10% across the board for all health plan options. Factoring in the increased contributions by the County, combined with additional anticipated health plan cost savings in future years, some members could realize a net of $0 deducted for their health insurance premiums.

Other improvements in this MOU include increases to uniform allowances for deputy sheriffs and community service officers that gradually go from an annual sum of $500 today to $1,000 in January 2019. All other classifications in the bargaining unit (except dispatchers) will now also enjoy an annual uniform allowance for the first time: $250 in January 2018, increasing to $350 in January 2019. Pilots and tactical flight officers in the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Air Support Unit will see their incentive pay more than double. Pilot biweekly incentive pay will increase from $300 to $750, while tactical flight officer biweekly incentive pay will increase from $200 to $400. Graveyard shift differential pay will gradually be fully restored to the 8% that it was prior to the Great Recession, rather than the 4% that it is today.

The agreed-upon MOU also contains protections for current and future salary disparities among the various classifications within the bargaining unit by way of contract reopeners. The first contract reopener calls for a salary study to be conducted for community service officers, deputy coroners, crime lab personnel and identification technicians. The costs of the studies are to be shared between the FDSA and the County. The studies will compare the salaries of the aforementioned classifications in Fresno County to those in other agreed-upon jurisdictions.

There is also a separate contract reopener specifically intended to address any potential salary disparity for deputy sheriffs. The reopener calls for a continuous comparison between the salary of a top-step Fresno County deputy sheriff and that of a top-step Fresno City police officer. Should the salary of a City police officer surpass that of a County deputy sheriff, the FDSA and the County will negotiate for additional increases. This important consideration is intended to address retention and recruitment in the deputy sheriff classification. Additional reopeners were included to study the impact of productive time, the County’s “Return to Work” Program (which streamlines the workers’ compensation process) and future considerations of detective incentive pay.

Depending on which classification one belongs to, the total compensation of this package ranges from 20% to 35% worth of enhancements. This MOU was applied up the ranks within the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office so that other bargaining units can reap the benefits of all the work that has been expended over more than a year, and we can maintain certain compaction percentages established by the County of Fresno.

The Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association Board, along with Messing Adam & Jasmine, are very proud to be able to bring forth this contract to the membership. The bargaining team of Gary Messing, Eric Schmidt, Isaac Torres, Anthony Gomez and Kelly Mayfield worked tirelessly to achieve this result, and all are pleased with the outcome for the association.