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.

See also: City passes budget, but waits on union deal

City budget relatively painless this year


Like this comment
Posted by PH
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I notice so many people talking about the El Camino Hospital union benefits, but no posts here about the city benefits. I'm not going to say they do or don't deserve their benefits, but look at what the government employees get and compare it to the private sector. We pay their checks so I would think we would have more concern shown here.

Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 5, 2011 at 11:19 am

My main concern is not with what the unions do or don't do with regards to benefits, but rather what the City Council negotiates with them. After all, the unions are performing their paid function as a special interest. They don't represent the public, or the public's interest.

However, the City government does have the paid responsibility to represent the residents. I hold them directly responsible for what they achieve on behalf of the City and its residents, when it comes to negotiations with the union, and vote according to their performance on this issue and others.

Its been said that when it comes to public unions, there is no party in the negotiations that has an incentive to protect the public's interest. I see this as a fundamental flaw in the system, but let's hope and watch carefully what this City Council achieves in terms of reigning in labor costs and benefits from the unions.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Too bad about the timing on this, it would have been an excellent opportunity for our new city manager to display his character.
Please, Mr. Debolt: May we have a few more details regarding the pay structure of our employees? We have no frame of reference... Would we feel sympathy for our underpaid and overworked SEIU brothers, or would we be disqusted with the salaries being granted them by our city officials?

Like this comment
Posted by PH
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2011 at 9:24 am

Many of us are members of unions that have made concessions over the years that have slowly put us in a less than desirable benefit and pay situation with our employers claiming that they couldn't remain in business if we din't help them cut costs. These same employers have many times made large profits and paid their top management incredible wage and benefit packages at the same time. It is getting to the point where the average person has done all they can do to cut back and survive and now they are facing the reality that their bills are more than they can afford and they've got nothing left to cut. At the same time corporate America is getting richer and having more influence on government. The government has never acted like a business and tends to work on the principal that it can always find a legal reason to survive. This makes them an even worse employer as they really don't show a financial responsibility to the taxpayers. The legislators are not endangered in their wealth any more than the corporate executives and don't seem to feel they should have to suffer the consequences of bad governing. It falls on the public to suffer the changes that keep the government in business. When times were good the government needed people and decided that they had to give generous pay and benefit packages to get those they wanted. It has evolved into a system that has some of the best pay and benefits with many perks that no longer exist or never existed in private industry. Things need to change and even the small concessions amount to huge savings. Most of us see the outrageous stories of certain people retiring early and then coming back to work because their position hasn't been filled, collecting pay for current work, retirement pay and benefits and making much more than so many of the others they worked with. These stories are put out by the media because they are examples of the greed developed by some individuals without consideration for the public that pays them. The instances of this type may be rare, but even one is too many and it is the media's intent to create an emotional reaction by us. The loop holes that public employees have found to give them such wonderful chances to get incredible windfalls have to be closed. The government has more benefits for their employees than any private sector union I know of and if this is not true I would like to know who does better. I don't like to talk to everyone about my personal finances, but the taxpayer is not my employer. I also don't make enough to be of interest, as like most working people, I'm just trying to get by these days. My problem is that on a daily basis I see the people who make their income on my tax dollars all around me and realize there are a lot of people employeed by our government. The questions about the pay and benefits of these people should be addressed with public knowledge as we are the ones who pay the bill. We should know in general what public setor employees make, what benefits they get and how they compare to the private sector. I think we will find they get a much better deal than the average citizen and as painful as it may be, they will have to give back a lot to the tax payer in concessions as the burden of paying their benefits is too much for the public to bear. The unions have gotten all of us better pay and working conditions and those who aren't in a union benefit as the non-union jobs keep pace in order to be fair and keep their employees out of unions. Unions defininately have a place in our working world, but those representing public service employees have to work with the interest of the tax paying, many times union, most times less fortunate citizens to insure survival of the services the public needs. We can't sustain a wasteful system that gives many types of employees, union or not, things that private business won't, while cutting back on essential services to balance their budget. While many of our public sector employees are enjoying the good stuff, the system lets everyone down and we all lose, even them. Our chidren need to be the best educated and prepared for the future as it gets tougher to get ahead every day. It is not in the interest of the public to cut education and essential services to meet the payroll needs of those already in good financial condition. When it comes right down to it, those who have it need to help those who don't and if it means they make a little less, then that's how it has to be. The public sector employees that are taking concessions to keep their fellow workers employeed and the services in place should be applauded for their help and the ones who won't give up anything should be ashamed of the hardships they will cause everyone around them. The bottom line is that we, the taxpayer, need the facts and figures to show us where our money goes and if it means the government employees wage packages are public, then so be it. We don't need to see every detail, but we need to know the numbers.

Many times we hear reasons the government employee believes he should get the great pay and benefits and they include things of hazardous nature as one. So what do we say to those who serve in our military? For so many of them life is nothing but hazardous duty and other things that disrupt any normal life. They don't make the pay to get rich and even though they might get good benefits when they leave the service, the cost is higher for them in the personal sacrifices they make and there isn't enough pay or benefits to compensate for the many who die and those left to suffer the loss of someone they love. I guess there are some under paid and over worked government employees we need to consider and we cannot thank them enough.

Like this comment
Posted by There you have it
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Life is unfair, what's new.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Still no actual numbers. Until someone knowledgable can enlighten me, I have to suspect the salary/benefit packages are embarrassingly good...

Like this comment
Posted by Inside out/Outside in
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Over the past 25 years, it was my choice to be a local government worker. I worked for several years in Silicon Valley as an electronics worker who made silicon chips. Pay was excellent in the private sector with business booming. Heck in 1980 as a single woman I was making $30 an hour in quality control in the wafer fab. Life WAS good. Then after three layoffs within 15 months due to the first bust/recession, and after another year of not finding any electronics work (only skills I had), I begged unemployment to retrain me for anything other than electronics. There were just NO jobs. I went through training, learned to work in an office setting and with job placement, landed my first local government job n 1984. My new starting wage would be $8 bucks an hour. Yep, less than half of what I made before. Shocked going from $30/hr. to unemployment and up a tiny bit to my new wage, I was THANKFUL for a stable job. I never wanted to get laid off again. Eventually I started a family and my stable job and benefits were appreciated more so than ever. It always bugged me that I could take my new skills and ‘go private’ and make $17 to $25 bucks an hour, but the fear of being laid off again with a family kept me a government worker. I raised my family over the years and my children make me extremely proud. They may not have had all the newest things or the name brand clothes, or got to travel during summer vacations, but they were healthy, happy, fed, clothed and sheltered with tons of love. So my point is all government workers KNOW they can make more money in private industry, yet choose to stay a government worker. You know we do take pride in taking care of communities we don’t even live in.

Then the 90s came and things got better and private industry was booming again, private pay rates increased, bonuses increased, percentage rates on annual performance evaluations were in double digits, all the while as a government worker, I had (and was still thankful) that I had stability and benefits that were affordable and helped me raise my family. I was able to live comfortably within my means. Yes I could use a 10% annual pay raise, but my negotiated 4% spread over three years would have to suffice.

Now that private industry is not as generous with pay raises, benefits, and lays off employees to meet quarterly reporting, government workers are being attacked for what they have which has always been far less than private industry. Just check out government jobs on line to see what they pay. Anyone want to apply for a Federal, State, City, or County job?? Low pay – great benefits-great pride in serving the public. One just cannot compare private industry pay and salaries to any government agency. What can be done is citizens vote in council members who are not using city council status as a stepping stone for their personal political careers and holds their senior staff accountable for utilizing public funds. I am thankful to live in a city where the ‘’city staff’ really works with the unions to come to reasonable results that do not adversely affect employees while meeting budgets. Please hold your City Managers, City Directors, city staff/management, accountable and responsible for any wrong doings or missed budgets.

Please do not attack government workers for what they have (and for what you may have lost) because due to the pharmaceutical, medical, insurance industries, labor unions (or lack of support thereof) government workers too will soon have high medical premiums, low wages, and one paycheck from bankruptcy or layoff depending on how the agency meets its budget goals. They will pay for more with less. Typically after reaching a certain step level (1 thru 5) there are no more cost of living raises unless it is in the budget to recognize its employees and is negotiated fairly, otherwise no raises to pay for national cost of living increases – ie. Food, gas, shelter, etc. I NEVER had a private industry person say they would like to have my job prior to 2007. Now, I am sure that someone would stab me in the back just to have my stable, low paying job with some benefits that remain……for now.

P.S. Steve from Sylvan Park neighborhood, go to any local City agency website (City of Redwood City, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View) and in the Human Resources area you will find the labor agreements and pay salaries for all workers (management, PD, Fire, SEIU, etc.) I am knowledgable and I hope you have been enlightened. The information is there. Seek and ye shall find.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 7:44 am

Thank you for the tip on finding those numbers. I encourage eveyone to call up those pages and compare city salaries and benefits to those they are familiar with, remember to factor in job security and retirement.

Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Only a one year contract? I have a feeling all of the unions are waiting until some new council members are elected. Right there are 3 members who do whatever the unions tell them to do. Look for the unions to push certain candidates for 2012.

Like this comment
Posted by dont believePoliticalInsider
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The unions wanted a longer contract the City management and council wanted a 1 year to align all unions to make sweeping changes. Once again you show that you’re not really an insider

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Whisman Station

on Jun 5, 2017 at 4:15 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

By Laura Stec | 31 comments | 1,974 views

Nobu Palo Alto eyes next-door expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,848 views

Are We Really Up To This?
By Aldis Petriceks | 3 comments | 1,333 views

Couples: Initiators and Implementors
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 866 views


Top restaurants to check out

Mountain View Voice readers have officially decided. See which local restaurants and businesses can now claim the title — Best Of Mountain View 2017.

View Winners