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SAN JOSE � After years of bitter negotiations, Santa Clara County and the union representing deputies in the district attorney and public defender’s offices have finally agreed on a new contract. In addition to receiving a 7 percent pay hike this year, the union, which includes attorneys in the county’s child support services department, can count on another 5 percent raise in 2008, according to the contract deal ratified by the board of supervisors earlier this month. Deputies also got a one-time payment equaling 2.5 percent of their annual wage last month and will receive a similar payment equaling 2 percent of their annual wage in September 2008, according to Deputy County Executive Luke Leung. “I think this is a fair contract,” said Paul Colin, president of the Government Attorneys Association. The county and the union had been locked in an acrimonious dispute since 2004 when the last contract expired. Accusations about unfair negotiation tactics abounded, and both sides filed complaints with the state Public Employment Relations Board. Union leaders also believed county officials retaliated against them, due to the contentious 2004 campaign for Measure C. Had it passed, Measure C would have required binding arbitration in workplace disputes, including those involving public attorneys. The union vigorously pushed the initiative, and after it failed, it believed the county took a tougher negotiating stance as payback. The animosity seemed to cool this spring, though. And in July, the union proposed a contract that was accepted by county negotiators. Colin declined Tuesday to say what exactly had changed at the bargaining table, but said the union “had learned more” about the county’s financial situation, and “I was able to adjust my final offer.” In June, the county lost a ballot initiative that would have brought in $150 million in additional sales tax revenue to help cushion an estimated $250 million budget shortfall. Colin, a deputy DA, said the union took the failed fiscal ballot initiative into consideration. He didn’t, however, want to discuss whether the union had brought down its demands, noting that “it’s important to preserve the confidentiality of the negotiation process.” Leung, the county’s chief negotiator, offered more insight. “I’m the constant for the county. I don’t believe I’ve changed much,” he said. However, Leung added, he has seen a change within the attorney union ranks. “There’s been more openness and more [of] a collaborative approach,” he said. Colin became union president last September after James Shore, another deputy DA, stepped down to run for the top prosecutor job. Shore came in third in the June primary. Under the union’s new five-year contract, deputies who are 50 years old and have served the county for at least five years can take advantage of a two-year “golden handshake.” The incentive tacks on two additional years of service credit to the pensions of employees who agree to retire between Sept. 13 and Dec. 17. Managers in the DA and PD’s offices don’t think they will be seeing many takers on this, though.

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