County workers enter mediation over benefits


San Mateo County workers gathered outside Redwood City government offices Thursday morning to announce that their union members have voted to reject the county's most recent contract proposal, leaving open the possibility of strike should third-party mediation fail.

Representatives of Service Employees International Union 152 maintain that concession proposals asking members to increase individual payments to their own health care and retirement plans, as well as submitting to furlough days, could result in $5.5 million in savings to the county budget over five years.

However, spokespeople at Thursday's rally, which was attended by dozens of county workers, said similar concessions should be made by county executives, whose benefit contributions amount to as much as 25 percent less than those made by union members.

"Everyone should share the pain and carry the burden," union organizer Brady Calma said.

Mediation is the final stage in the bargaining process before a vote to strike is brought before county workers, union officials said.

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