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Riverside County workers launch one-day strike

January 31, 2012 |  9:41 am

Thousands of Riverside County workers have launched a one-day strike to protest the pension cuts imposed on employees after contract negotiations reached an impasse late last year.

Members of the county’s second-largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 721, started gathering around the county administration building early Tuesday morning for an all-day protest and series of rallies.

The union represents 5,800 county workers. On Tuesday, a Riverside County judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting about 250 county workers from joining the strike, primarily nurses and other healthcare workers at the Riverside County Regional Medical Center.

The county sought the stay, arguing the absence of those essential workers would put lives in peril. County officials sought concessions from all unions as part of efforts to overcome an $80-million budget shortfall.

After the impasse, the county required union employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits. SEIU spokeswoman Tracy Silveria said union employees already have taken major financial hits to help the county deal with its financial woes.

Along with work furloughs that amounted to a 10% pay cut, the employees have not received a cost-of-living wage increase in three years, she said.

“All the workers want is the county to bargain in good faith," Silveria said. “They’ve been using county workers as their ATM instead of doing the hard work to deal with the deficit."

County spokesman Ray Smith said no major disruptions to county services have been reported due to the one-day work stoppage.

“We’re filling in where we can with supervisory employees and temporary employees to keep services available for county residents," Smith said.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

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