A deal to bring a state health exchange call center to Contra Costa County that appeared all but dead earlier this week has come back to life.
The county brokered an agreement late Wednesday with leaders from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 512,
overcoming a stalemate that had jeopardized the county's chances of hosting the call center and the 205 jobs that come with it.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, all 50 states are required to create entities called "health benefit exchanges" to help individuals and businesses compare and purchase private insurance plans.
The California Health Benefit Exchange will have three call centers statewide, and in January the state announced that it planned to award a contract to Contra Costa County to operate one locally.
The agreement between the county and the union, reached with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, acting as a mediator, came a day after the Board of Supervisors voted to reject the state contract for the call center, citing an impasse in negotiations.
The county faulted AFSCME, saying it had demanded an unreasonable 12.8 percent pay differential for six call center supervisors.
AFSCME leaders said they never expected to get the full 12.8 percent differential and were more concerned that the county would involuntarily reassign current county employees to the new call center, potentially extending their commute times and work hours.
Local 512 President Richard Cabral said the proposed pay differential was a way to address the added costs to workers forced to move to a new office.
"The 12.75 (percent) increase was one way of addressing that, but there are always different ways to address a problem," he said.
Under the new contract agreement, the county will hire new employees to fill the call center supervisor positions.
"We've signed off and now we're ready for (the county) to kick it off," Cabral said.
County Supervisor Federal Glover said the county is ready to move forward.
"It was a great breakthrough to be able to negotiate a contract agreement with our labor groups," he said. "That puts our train back on the track."
Glover said the call center deal will bring much-needed jobs to the county, which has struggled with unemployment.
"I think it's going to help stimulate the economy," he said.
The county must first select a site for the call center. Leaders in Concord and Richmond are both pushing to have the center come to their cities.
The Board of Supervisors will hold an emergency meeting in Martinez at 4 p.m. Friday to discuss a site for the call center and possibly take a vote. If a location is not chosen Friday, the board will select a site at its regular meeting on Tuesday, according to Glover's office.