SEIU served a dues it in Santa Barbara

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Militant jumbo union to fight against gov't cost cut

Due to budget shortfalls, 30-day layoff notices have been delivered to 16 Santa Barbara County social services employees, and more may be on the way. A union leader, however, said that the layoffs may be avoided through negotiations with the county.

Those employees who face unemployment in a month are those that assist in determining the eligibility of individuals on state and federal benefits such as Medi-Cal or Medicare.

County staff members recently acknowledged to the state and to the Board of Supervisors that the county may have to repay up to $30 million to the state in erroneous billings for Medi-Cal benefits.

The county identified and reported to the state potential issues regarding cost reporting, claiming and accounting methods by the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Department.

The eligibility employees with the Social Services Department interview the applicants for social services, such as Medi-Cal, and review their cases periodically or when their circumstances change.

A loss in trained eligibility workers would most likely result in increased mistakes, which could be costly to the county in the future, said Favel Jens, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 721.

The Santa Barbara County Social Services Department already had 14 unfilled positions, and in a letter to eligibility workers dated Oct. 10, department director Kathy Gallagher wrote that “up to approximately 40” workers would be subject to layoff in the near future.

Gallagher also offered employees the opportunity to accept part-time status in accordance with the county's contract with the SEIU.

However, Rey Ybarra, the Local 721 chapter president and a 20-year county employee, has told union members that the layoffs are not set in stone and that the issue will be addressed with the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday in Santa Barbara.

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who met with union members Friday, would only say that he hoped negotiations between the union and the county would lead to a “fruitful outcome” and a “win, win” for all parties involved.

Earlier in the year, the majority of county employee unions opted to take a mandatory unpaid furlough and accept delays in salary increases while in exchange the county would not lay off those union members during the current fiscal year.

Local 721 members were not given adequate opportunity to accept the furlough offer before they began receiving layoff notices, Jens said.

Carbajal said union and county negotiations are continuing.


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