Roann Verdie, local paramedic and a member of the ambulance negotiating team, said negotiations have been taking place for the past 13 months. During that time, the Del Puerto Health Care District, which runs the ambulance, has spent thousands of dollars. Verdie said the legal counsel that represent the district are not negotiating in good faith.
“It’s been a month or two since they came to the table, so don’t criticize us for the attorney’s fees,” Verdie said. “They keep saying it’s this last, best and final offer, which is insulting to everybody. We’re still working on the nuts and bolts of the contract and haven’t even gotten to the financials yet.”
The local ambulance crew was the last in the county to unionize and did so following a decision by the health care board in December 2012 to cut benefits by 40 percent.
Verdie adds that at the most recent March meeting the legal counsel and ambulance team met at the table at 10 a.m., and at 10:15 a.m. the lawyers left the room to review the proposal set forth by the ambulance team and union reps. Four hours later, the ambulance team and union reps received an e-mail from the lawyers stating they had lost the union rep’s phone number and were not coming back to the table that day.
The next date to meet is tentatively set for Aug. 21, according to Verdie.
Verdie explained that in the year of negotiations with legal counsel, lawyers never came back to the negotiations after lunch in any of the 13 times they met. Another negotiator, Lee Almeida, vice president of TEMSA-USW Union Local 911, said he doesn’t know what it’s going to take to move on with the negotiations.
“Somebody needs to be asking why—what is it going to take?” Almeida said. “What is annoying is we haven’t even gotten to the economics. The attorneys like to drag it out. Don’t look at us and blame us.” Almeida adds that the union negotiators have a career in negotiations and “it’s really not complicated.
“We’re not inventing a new language—this is language that’s been around for decades,” Almeida said. “It’s not extremely complicated. It’s not rocket science.”
Attorney Jason Epperson of the law firm Cota Cole LLP of Madera, who represents the health district in the negotiations, did not comment on the matter as of press time.
Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or firstname.lastname@example.org