Del Norte County supervisors this week ratified an agreement that will provide nearly 300 county employees with a 5 percent cost-of-living pay increase over three years.

"It was indeed a long, arduous process. I would say an obvious positive one," said Norma Williams, president of the Del Norte County Employees Association, which represents the county's largest employee group.

"What our union unanimously and overwhelmingly voted upon was a fair and equitable contract that is reflective of both of our points of views and philosophies when it comes to employees as well as labor relations here for Del Norte County."

The county's memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Del Norte County Employees Association, which represents most county employees, also marks the first time in roughly seven years that workers haven't had to take furlough days, according to assistant county administrator Neil Lopez.

Under the updated agreement, workers will begin paying a portion of the contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System - something the county had paid in its entirety, Lopez said. As a trade-off, the county offered employees a cost-of-living adjustment, or a COLA, on an incremental basis, he said.

The new agreement expires Aug. 31, 2016.

"Each time they get a COLA they'll pay a certain percentage to PERS," Lopez said. "The net result is a 5 percent COLA for the employee."

A similar agreement will likely be reached with the county's other employee groups, which include elected officials, department heads and assistant department heads, Lopez said.

"All of those groups don't exactly have an MOU, but what we do have is a resolution that whatever the employees get we get also," he said. "Not every group has met yet, but typically groups go along with what happens with the employees."

The other group the county is currently in negotiations with is the Sheriffs Employees Association, Lopez said. County officials are hoping to resolve those negotiations by the beginning of January, he said.

In other matters Tuesday, supervisors ratified an MOU with the California United Homecare Workers Union, Local 4034, that provides a 50-cent increase per hour. It is a result of negotiations between the union and the In-home Supportive Services Public Authority.

The wage increase was accomplished by transferring the 60 cents per hour the public authority contributes toward health benefits to salaries.

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