Section 3. Union Stewards and Official Representatives
The County and Union agree that professional, productive, and positive labor relations can be accomplished when Union and County representatives’ work together to support the services we provide to the public. To support this philosophy, the parties have agreed to the provisions regarding attendance at meetings and handling of meetings. Paid release time is intended to support the collaboration and cooperative spirit of labor relations by ensuring that Union members have access to resources designed to help support their continued success as public employees and that Union leaders have an opportunity to work together to support the success of their members.
Any denial of requested time off may be appealed to the Human Resources Director whose decision shall be final.
3.1 Release Time
A. Appropriate Use of Release Time:
Release time identified above is provided for Union leaders to prepare and collaborate on matters that impact the labor relations of the County of San Mateo. The County agrees to provide this time so that issues, disputes, and other labor relations matters can be effectively and strategically addressed. This privilege shall not be abused. Use of the paid release time for unauthorized purposes may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
Paid release time is authorized for use for the following activities:
- Posting Union Notices in County designated/authorized locations;
- Transmitting communications authorized by the Local Union or its Officers to the County or his/her representative.
- Attending Labor-Management meetings;
- Consultation with the County’s designated representatives, Local Union Officers, or other Union representatives concerning the enforcement of any provision of this Agreement;
- Investigating and processing grievances or disciplinary appeals;
- Attending Union meetings.
Paid release time is not authorized to be used for the following activities:
- Distributing political information or advocating support for political candidates, ballot initiatives, or other legislation;
- Conducting membership drives or soliciting membership from other County employees or applicants;
- Any activity that is precluded by law or County policy as a conflict of interest, or that may be perceived as a conflict of interest based on the employment of the individual by the County;
- Any political activity, that is prohibited by law or County policy, of public employees during the course and scope of their employment;
- Personal use of County paid release time on non-Union or labor relations matters.
B. Documentation of Release Time
Employees shall document their release time using pay code RTE on their time card.
C. Paid Release Time for Attendance at Meetings
County employees who are Officers or Stewards of the Union shall be given reasonable time off with pay, including reasonable travel time, to formally meet and confer or consult with management representatives on matters within the scope of representation, or to be present at hearings where matters within the scope of representation are being considered to testify or appear as the designated representative of the Union in settlement conferences, hearings, or other proceedings before PERB, in matters relating to an unfair practice charge; or to testify or appear as the designated representative of the Union in matters before the Civil Service Commission, in addition to time off identified in Section 3.2. The use of official time for this purpose shall be reasonable and shall not interfere with the performance of County services as determined by the County. Such Officers or Stewards shall submit written requests for excused absences to the Human Resources Director at least two (2) working days prior to the scheduled meeting whenever possible. Except by agreement with the Human Resources Director, the number of employees excused for such purposes shall not exceed three (3) per Union, or the following number of representatives which shall not exceed a total of sixteen (16) at any one time:
One (1) from each of the following representation units:
- Inspection and Regulation Unit
- Institutional Services Unit
- Licensed Vocational Nurse Unit
- Parks Unit
- Planning Unit
- Clinical Laboratory Scientist Unit
- Communications Unit
- Telecommunications Unit; and
Two (2) from each of the following representation units:
- Health Services Unit
- Plant and Equipment Maintenance Unit, and
Four (4) from Human Services Unit, whichever is greater, at any one time.
For the purpose of negotiations meetings, a local union president who is a county bargaining unit member shall also be released.
If any employee’s request for excused absence is not approved, such disapproval shall be subject to appeal to the Human Resources Director whose decision shall be final.
County employees who are shop stewards shall be provided with two (2) hours of paid release time each month to attend Steward Council or Local Union Meetings. Requests for time shall be made to the employee’s department head, and, for tracking purposes, to the Employee Relations Manager, at least seven (7) days in advance. It is acknowledged that Hospitals and Clinics administration will attempt to provide such release time, but that each instance must be considered on a case by case basis. No steward release time shall be unreasonably denied.
Up to seventeen (17) County employees who are Chief Stewards and/or Union Officers shall be provided with an additional two (2) hours of paid release time each month to attend internal Union meetings. The Union shall certify in writing to the Human Resources Director the names of employees selected as Chief Stewards and Union Officers, and shall notify the County of changes as they occur.
D. President Paid Release Time
A County employee who is the Chapter President shall be provided with twenty (20) hours of paid release time each pay period. The Union agrees that the start of the term of office for a newly elected President will coincide with the start of a County pay period. During County paid release time, the Chapter President shall engage only in the activities listed in Section 3.1(A) of this MOU.
The Department Head (or designee) of the Chapter President’s home department will establish the work hours and shift of the Chapter President in accordance with business purposes and efficiencies. The Department Head or designee will meet with the Union to attempt to mutually agree on the schedule in accordance with the business needs of the Department. If the Department Head or designee and Union do not reach a mutually agreeable schedule, the matter will be referred to the Human Resources Director whose decision shall be final.
E. Leave of Absence for Union Work
Leaves of absence to take employment with the Union signatory to this MOU shall be granted for a minimum of thirteen (13) full biweekly pay periods upon forty-five (45) days advanced written notice from the Union.
Employees are entitled to retain all pay and benefits while on a leave to work for the Union, including retirement benefits and service credits. While on such leave to work for the Union, on a weekly basis, the Union or employee shall submit accurate accountings of hours worked according to the County’s payroll practices including any vacation, Holiday or other paid time off used during that week. Employees will receive pay through the County process. The Union will be billed on a regular basis as determined by the Controller’s Office for all costs associated with the individual on leave including the employer’s share of all pay, benefits and retirement contributions, and, if necessary, the cost to backfill the position, whether with overtime or an additional employee. The Union will reimburse the County in full within thirty (30) calendar days of receipt of each bill. If the Union fails to make payment within that time, future payments, benefits and retirement contributions to the employee will cease. In addition, the Union will owe interest on the amount due at a rate of five percent (5%) per month until paid in full.
In the event the employee is in a business critical position, or based on the number of employees currently released to work for the union a hardship is created for the County to conduct regular business, a discussion will occur between the Union and the Department Head(s) regarding the feasibility of the release (i.e., if the request were to release the only payroll specialist in a department, it may not be feasible to release that person with only 45 days-notice; or, if the request were for an individual for whom we claim Federal funding and the County would suffer that loss.). Denials will be provided in writing including the reason for the denial. Denials may be appealed to the Human Resources Director whose decision shall be final.
Every reasonable effort will be made to return the employee to their prior assignment, work location and shift upon return from this leave of absence; however the County cannot guarantee the availability of that assignment, work location or shift.
F. Unpaid Release Time
The Union shall be allowed up to one hundred and fifty (150) hours of unpaid release time per calendar year for stewards to conduct necessary internal union business.
Requests for time shall be made to the employee’s department head and, for tracking purposes, to the Employee Relations Manager at least seven (7) days in advance.
3.2 Handling of Grievances
The Union shall designate a reasonable number of Stewards to assist in resolving grievances. The designation will depend on such circumstances as geographical locations, hours of employment, and departmental organizational structure. The Union shall notify the Human Resources Department Director in writing of the individuals so designated. Alternates may be designated to perform Steward functions only during the absence or unavailability of the Stewards except by mutual agreement of the parties.
Stewards may be relieved from their assigned work duties by their supervisors to investigate and process grievances initiated by other employees within the same representation unit including participating in Steps 1-4 of the grievance process as described in Section 38.2. Requests for release time shall not be denied unreasonably. Stewards shall promptly report to the Union any grievances which may arise and cannot be adjusted on the job. Supervisory employees shall not represent non-supervisory employees in a grievance procedure where such activity might result in a conflict of interest.
The Union shall notify the County in advance of an investigatory meeting if they wish to have released an additional steward for training purposes. Requests for release for training purposes shall not be unreasonably denied. Any denial may be appealed to the Employee Relations Manager whose decision shall be final.