By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two additional groups of Santa Rosa workers have agreed to salary concessions, bringing to $2 million the amount city workers have given up to help the city weather its financial crisis.
The union representing about 140 middle managers agreed to unpaid furloughs that will reduce their salaries by 3.6 percent this year, while about 190 road and utility engineers agreed to a 4.6 percent salary cut through furloughs.
They’re not too happy about it, either.
“We’re getting whacked left and right,” said Dave Gossman, who represents the 190 workers in Operating Engineers Local 3.
The agreements go before the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday night. The city’s three largest unions, representing police, fire and regular city workers, have all previously accepted concessions in varying amounts.
Facing a $3.8 million budget gap, the City Council in the spring directed staff to begin negotiating concessions equal to 5 percent of salary for each employee group. The goal was to save $2.5 million in salaries and raise $1.3 million from a future revenue source.
As it turned out, voters handed the city an additional $6 million in revenue annually in the form of Measure P, the quarter-cent sales tax for city services. The combination of the latest concessions and the approval of Measure P effectively solve the city’s budget gap for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2011.
“We worked at this for months and months,” said Fran Elm, the city’s director of human resources. “We didn’t give up.”
Gossman said the workers he represents hope the concessions help the city out of a jam and prevent more layoffs. But workers are losing patience with the pattern of job cuts and salary reductions.
The engineers have resisted other efforts by the city to reduce employee costs. They were the only city bargaining unit to refuse to go along with a two-tiered pension system aimed at reducing the city’s long-term pension costs.
The city imposed the contract change on the engineers anyway, but the union dragged the city before the state Public Employee Relations Board on an unfair labor practice charge, which remains unresolved.
Gossman the group is unlikely to accept any future salary concessions.
“We’re doing our part in cooperating to get us through this budget, but this is sort of like the last time around here,” he said. “We’ve given our last drop of blood.”
The engineers ratified the concessions about two weeks ago. It included minor changes to their vision plan and terms of their IRA accounts.
Meanwhile, the middle managers voted Monday night to accept their 3.6 percent concessions, said Jason Parrish, who represents the Santa Rosa Management Association.
The savings will be achieved through 73 hours of unpaid mandatory time off.
The furloughs were approved by 53 percent of the managers. The relatively close vote reflects the fact that many managers work in departments, like utilities, that are not suffering budget shortfalls because they are funded through dedicated revenue streams, Parrish said.
Others work in departments, like transit, where the managers will be taking pay cuts but the workers they manage won’t, Parrish said.
“Everyone was approaching this from a different angle,” Parrish said.
Another change for the managers involved cutting from two weeks to one the amount of unused vacation time that workers can sell back to the city annually.
The latest concessions mean virtually all the city’s 1,280 permanent workers have agreed to some form of salary concession, Elm said.
There are a couple of exceptions. About 62 bus drivers were not impacted because a reduction of their salaries would merely have reduced the amount of federal grant money used to fund their positions, producing no savings to the local budget, Elm said. And a group of 52 dispatchers and evidence technicians were not asked for concessions because they had recently increased their health care contributions and furloughs would have increased overtime costs to cover those shifts, Elm said.
The lone holdout remains a group of a half-dozen assistant city attorneys, Elm said. The attorneys make an average of $139,405, according to a state database.
The group has made several offers that have been turned down by the city, said Assistant City Attorney Mike Casey.
That’s because in exchange for the 4.6 percent salary reduction, they wanted a one-year extension of their contract, which ends in June 2011, Elm said. But the city is unwilling to extend any more contracts because it needs to remain flexible regarding employee costs, Elm said.
“We’re really worried that even with the passage of Measure P, we may need more next year,” she said.