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Two more unions at Santa Rosa City Hall accept furloughs

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.





12 Responses to “Two more unions at Santa Rosa City Hall accept furloughs”

  1. Ken Sportini says:

    Way to go! Because we know with the new SRCC, safety unions will not see anything cut. You know, safety unions, most of the people who make over $100k in pensions.

    Like Ernesto Olivares, da next mayor of SR!

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Billy C says:

    It times of financial crises Cities, households,or business should review there finances. IT HAS TO BE DONE.
    Santa Rosa Has spent money wildly when things where booming and now the situation is and will be different. The unions Have done there job and gotten generous benefits for its members. The city has a notoriously bloated management system.
    The 40 Million dollar Utilities building is a shocking example of how freely we squandered our resources.
    I order to survive we need to take a fresh new look at these things and fix what needs fixing.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  3. srgem says:

    Unfortunately, there are the few that make all of the public employees look bad. The article should have included average wages and benefits for public sector workers, not just focus on the managers who have been public servants for a million years. There are slackers in every company. Also, not all public employees pay Social Security – PERS is the retirement system. The government has to make up the difference if Social Security fails – that is taxpayer funded as well. So don’t cry so hard about it costing taxpayers for retirement benefits. Public employees also get reduced Social Security benefits (if they have enough credits) when they retire, even though they paid their full share. I believe every employee, no matter what their job is, should contribute to their retirement. It’s only right.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  4. OMeyer says:

    In the last 3 years a local lumber company has reduced their workforce from 215 to 140, cut salarys dramatically, reduced hours, and quit paying a 5% 401k matching retirement fund. They have also gone over every line item to cut, cut, cut the waste and inefficiency in their business in order to survive.

    The Operating Engineers Dave Gossman says,“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.”

    A 5% furlough without any cut in hourly wage or benefits?

    Maybe we should have local businesses who know how to survive in the real world, take over operation of the City and County. If they were a business with their salarys, benefits, overhead and waste they would be bankrupt…and that is where we are headed.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8

  5. Scott says:

    Bear. Please quit then and go to work for the private sector. You won’t survive. Furloughs are a joke. Kick the problem down the road for 1 year. What Public Employees really need is a major, permanent pay and benefit cut!

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 11

  6. Mike says:

    Local government in Sonoma County needs a major overhaul and now is a good time to start. The current crop of politicans are hoping for the best, money from somewhere, someone. Santa will not be making a stop in city hall this year or for sometime to come. We better get use to it.

    You have to figure this one out yourselves like most adults have to figure out they can’t continue to max out the credit cards and buy the new car, boat and take those long vacations without paying a very high price in terms of their families well being.

    Debt takes high toll on a person and a city in terms of jobs, and economic stability and the ability to provide necessary and needed services to a community.

    Cities in Sonoma County and the County Board of Supervisors cannot continue to write bad checks and expect the voters to blame it all on the bad economy. They have to step up to the plate and take responsibility. I am not optimistic they have the will to do so based on the past record.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  7. Nancy says:

    @Alex: It’s my understanding that Section 8 programs are 100% funded by HUD, not the local governments.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  8. bear says:

    I praise these unions and their workers, and nearly every other employee group in ALL cities and the County who have given back money to help local governments.

    Contrary to what you might think, they do NOT have guarenteed jobs for life, or anything close to that.

    If you want no government and no government employees, this is easily accomplished. City Councils and the Board of Supervisors can lay off anyone at any time.

    And if you want employees with no morale, you’ve already got it. Just like YOU feel in the private sector.

    Please consider that we are all suffering from the same national economic problems. Every dollar taken from every worker is one less dollar spent in support of local businesses and the local economy.

    We all need to get on the same page?

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 8

  9. Solidarity Forever says:

    On principle, I generally support union members and their struggles to uphold the living standards of their members. In the case of the Operating Engineers, my sympathies are quite limited, given their active role in supporting conservative candidates like David Rabbitt for Supervisor, even going to the extreme of staging an astro-turf demo outside Petaluma City Hall, side-by-side with the most virulent anti-union characters in the county.

    They bought into the discredited Republican mantra of low taxes and environmental deregulation as the keys to economic vitality. They may find, to their surprise, that the next time they appeal to the public for support in their labor contract disputes, that no one steps up to defend them. Solidarity is a two-way street, and they have burned the bridge that leads to that street.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

  10. Frank says:

    “We’re getting whacked left and right,” said Dave Gossman, who represents the 190 workers in Operating Engineers Local 3

    have a look at Local 718 Dave

    see, the private sector don’t have the same comfort of city, county, and state employees

    The latest concessions mean virtually all the city’s 1,280 permanent workers have agreed to some form of salary concession, Elm said.

    But workers are losing patience with the pattern of job cuts and salary reductions. Yes i agree its time to get rid of a lot of adminastration

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  11. Alex says:

    So I keep hearing about people who get paid for working and how much it costs the city to run services. I would LOVE to hear how much is the welfare programs and section 8 and low-income housing costing the city and county every year? Please report that…it seems that there is this burn them alive attitude to punish those who work…insane since they are spending the money back in the economy they are getting it from while providing a service. So let’s be fair and report what is the lowest pay and what is the average city/county worker making…not a select group or percentage…very poor reporting and extremely bias…yellow journalism is what it is..yet no mention of the nearly one million dollars the city council wants to spend on Humboldt Bike Boulevard…what a slap in the face to the residents and the employees of the city to ask for concessions while they create a million dollar road to no where…especially since there are already designated bike lanes on Mendocino…and the neighborhhod is safe to ride in…instead making more traffic and spending a million dollars is idiotic and financially stupid…no other way to say it…dumb is dumb and Humboldt Bike Boulevard is not only dumb but an example of why there should be no concessions by the city workers..when the government spends millions on pet projects to push their agenda at the cost of the citizens…there needs to be a recall!

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  12. Lyn Cramer says:

    Ho hum. Is this the best we can do, kick the problem down the road only to face it again next year? When do those who relentlessly preach sustainability practice it when the subject is city budgets?

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 10

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