Sheriff’s deputies, who have been working without a contract for nearly a year, finally got the attention of county supervisors Tuesday when the board voted to seek court action to block a second week of sickouts.

Representatives of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs denied that their members were engaging in an illegal work action when they called in sick in such large numbers on several days last month that the jails had to impose a lockdown and courthouses had to close their doors. But ALADS leaders said any frustration that would lead to a sickout was understandable.

“It’s amazing when you work next to the Los Angeles Police Department, the second largest police department in the nation, and the city can come up with a 9 percent raise,” said ALADS vice president Steve Remige. “The Board of Supervisors has come to the table with takeaways.”

The Los Angeles City Council signed off on a police contract this year that boosts pay by 9 percent over three years.

The sour economy and the state budget crisis affected all of California’s cities and counties last year and again this year. Most public work forces whose contracts expired in that time have had their bids for pay raises and sustained benefits turned away. But Remige said the problem has been especially hard on L.A. County sheriff’s deputies (and district attorney’s investigators), whose morale he claimed was close to record lows due to the county’s failure to consider raises.

He also had some critical words for Sheriff Lee Baca. “It seems to me, if he was really concerned about the morale of his people, he would be out there going against the board to prevent these cuts,” Remige said.

In addition to stagnant salaries, ALADS members are angry over the expiration Tuesday of a separate benefits package.

County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen said his people are in active negotiations with the deputies on a new benefits package. As for salaries, though, “We do not feel we can afford an increase,” he said. “We do not have a salary proposal. We told that to the bargaining team a year ago.”

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