MARTINEZ -- Unable to reach a deal with its labor unions, Contra Costa County has abandoned plans to operate a new state health insurance exchange call center, a move that will cost 214 new county jobs.
It's unclear if the state will open the center on its own in Contra Costa or look outside the county for another government operator.
The supervisors were scheduled to select a site in either Concord or Richmond on Tuesday and both communities were heavily lobbying for the nod.
But county Administrator David Twa told the board of supervisors that operating costs would exceed what the state would reimburse. Supervisors are unwilling to subsidize the operation out of the county's general purpose funds.
The higher costs were driven by demands from , two of the four unions that would represent the new workers. The labor groupswanted more lucrative health insurance benefits and more liberal work rules in exchange for their signoff on the deal.
"We could still save the jobs if the unions come to us and say they will accept the new employees under their current contract provisions," said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. "But we are running out of time."
The state wants the new center staffed, tested and operational by July 1, a timetable county staff considered ambitious even if supervisors had chosen a location Tuesday.
The Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which would have represented 180 of
As a cost-cutting measure during the recession, the county two years ago capped contribution toward worker health premiums for most of its employees at 2011 dollar levels. The dollar cap also helped the county lower its unfunded liability for retiree health care costs as pensioners receive the same benefits as active workers.
Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff has described the union move as an attempt to influence upcoming negotiations. SEIU's contract expires in June.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 512 requested a 12.75 percent shift differential and work rules that allowed employees to stay one hour after the center closed in order to qualify for the additional money.