Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2019

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Local governments win arbitration ruling eliminating longevity pay for some union employees

Local governments across the valley scored a major victory in the ongoing controversy over employee pay when an arbitrator sided with Clark County in a dispute with its largest employee union.

The arbitrator's decision removes longevity pay, a long-standing benefit for public employees, for all new members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, which represents about 5,000 rank-and-file county employees. The county estimates doing away with longevity pay will save it $264 million in employee costs over the next 30 years. Only new hires, not current employees, will be affected by the ruling.

"Although longevity pay can be a source of added pay for some employees, the landscape has changed," the arbitrator wrote in his decision. "The case for eliminating longevity pay for new hires is a strong one, and this change will have no economic impact on current employees."

The decision reflects a shift underway among local governments, who have systematically phased out longevity pay for new hires. Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Metro Police and the Las Vegas Valley Water District don't offer longevity pay. The benefit is still available to new hires at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, University Medical Center, the Regional Transportation Commission, the Southern Nevada Health District and the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority.

The arbitrator's decision resolves a more-than-two-year contract dispute between the county and SEIU, largely due to a stalemate over longevity pay.

While the county pushed to eliminate the benefit, the union countered with an offer to delay the length of service needed to qualify for longevity pay from eight years to 11 years.

The union argued that longevity is a tool to attract new employees and retain those who had topped out on the pay scale. But the county said the expensive benefit did little to reward employee performance.

“We felt all along that we had a strong case and the arbitrator clearly felt the same way," county manager Don Burnette said in a statement.

The decision also awards employees a 4.5 percent cost of living increase over two years, slightly lower than the 4.75 percent requested by the union.

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