Union concessions prevent layoffs
The City Council on Tuesday approved agreements with the city's union leaders to prevent layoffs over the next year.
Interim City Manager Melissa Stevenson Dile said the agreements with most of the city's non-public safety employees would cut health care costs and vacation costs enough to keep the city from making any layoffs or unexpected budget cuts this year.
Cost savings from the proposed contracts would save about $500,000 in 2011-12, which was the City Council's goal.
Dile said the cost savings comes from increasing hospital visit co-payments to $10 for "non-preventative" medical visits for all three employee groups, saving $150,000. The co-payments were previously free or $5. Vacation policies changed for all three groups, reducing the amount that can be paid out in cash and putting caps on how much vacation time can accrue, reducing the city's budget costs.
Police and fire managers agreed to not take any merit pay raises or cost of living adjustments for the year, while department heads and council appointees agreed to do the same for the third year in a row. The SEIU also agreed to one unpaid day off during the year.
SEIU leader Chris Costanzo said it was difficult for employees to put a cap on vacation time, as many employees see it as their only option for taking maternity leave. The city is unusual in not having a disability plan to allow that.
As a result of the cutbacks, two employees got to keep their jobs: an assistant at the Center for Performing Arts and a public safety public outreach coordinator. A vacant position for a community services officer will remain in the budget, while the deputy zoning administrator will remain a full time position. A half-time deputy fire marshal in charge of inspecting apartment buildings will now be funded for full time work to address a backlog of inspections.
The agreements were made with employee groups representing 75 percent of the city's 600 employees: the SEIU, the Eagles — a mid-level managers union — and unrepresented employees, which include department heads, council appointees, classified IT employees and fire and police managers.
Police and fire union contracts were not up for negotiation this year and neither group made any concessions, Dile said. Both unions had contract extensions given to them in the last two years which expire in June, 2012.
Addressing concerns about a potential conflict of interest, Dile said police Capt. Max Bosel was not involved in contract negotiations with police managers, but was involved in negotiations with fire department managers. Bosel has been filling in for Dile as interim assistant city manager and human resources director, a key position in negotiating with the city's unions. Bosel will go back to being a police captain in a few weeks.
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