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Union ‘give-backs’ save Rohnert Park $1 million

By JEREMY HAY

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rohnert Park has erased its multi-million dollar budget deficit through labor agreements that extract nearly $1 million in concessions from two unions that represent a third of its workers.

The contracts — which closely resemble offers the unions turned down two weeks ago — include $782,000 in savings over one year, a major victory for a city that had been facing a $2.4 million deficit.

The agreements, signaling a hardening trend of imposed austerity on city workers, follow one the city signed with public safety workers in July that included $2.3 million in concessions over two years.

“We fixed our structural deficit, what we need to do now is we have a fiduciary responsibility to spend our money wisely,” said Mayor Gina Belforte. “We can’t go back to the way we were doing things.”

Union leaders bruised by the outcome of five months of negotiations said it was now up to the city to do right by workers who have taken cuts for several contracts running.

“I hope that they are very wise and cautious with the savings we have created for them,” said Jim McIntyre, a city mechanic and shop steward for the Service Employees International Union in Rohnert Park.

The bulk of the latest savings are achieved through shortened work weeks and mandatory furlough days, and changes that will force members of both unions to pay their full share of retirement pension premiums under the CalPERS system.

For 30 public works employees represented by the Service Employees International Union, the concessions amount to just under a nine percent cut in compensation and benefits, for total savings of $415,000.

For the 28 office workers in the Rohnert Park Employees Association, the cuts are steeper, 13 percent in combined salary and benefit givebacks, for a total savings of $367,000.

City Manager Gabe Gonzalez called the new contracts “significant and important.”

Together with the agreements with public safety officers and the city’s 15 management and confidential employees, “The combined amount takes care of the deficit,” he said.

But the reactions on Monday of city leaders and employees underscored the deep divide that developed during labor talks that grew increasingly bitter and veered toward breakdown by the end.

The agreements reflected “leadership and dedication” from the unions, Belforte said. “We were able to find a solution and we were able to compromise.”

She added, “I know it’s going to hurt a lot of our employees.”

Angie Smith, a purchasing agent and president of the employees association, said, “They played hardball with us.”

The two unions approved the contracts under pressure from the city, which was close to declaring the negotiations at an impasse, a stage which would have allowed it to impose terms unilaterally.

“We were at the point of it,” said McIntyre.

Smith acknowledged the degree to which the union’s options had dwindled at the close of talks.

“It’s pretty much what we rejected,” she said of the final contract.

She and McIntyre also repeated objections voiced during the late stage of negotiations, saying that the management and confidential employee units — who do not bargain but rather are presented with contracts they have to agree to — took softer hits overall.

“This was pick and choose and some units suffered more than others,” said McIntyre.

“We hope in the future negotiations will be fair and equitable among all parties because this time they were definitely not,” said Smith.

Gonzalez said that both management and confidential employees took pay and benefit cuts of between 13 and 14 percent, largely from a reduction in the number of overtime hours.

McIntyre said his group was facing 13 percent cuts when it launched a last-minute lobbying effort at a July 26 City Council meeting, where members made impassioned pleas for a better deal,. He said that effort made the difference between bad and worse.

“That final push, it saved us almost four percent,” he said.





8 Responses to “Union ‘give-backs’ save Rohnert Park $1 million”

  1. Steve says:

    My first response did not make through the censorship of the PD I guess. John Bly wow a statue huh? Who do you think would pay for it? Tax payers and who do you think would build it install it and maintain it? The workers that were just forced to take paycuts year after year to make up for a city manager’s inability to manage and unwillingness to make changes at the managment level which would definately have a greater imapct on the deficict. This is a slap in the face to the working class. I dont work for the City I just know right from wrong and this is wrong! They should oust the city manager and his senior managment team!!

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  2. Soon to be laid off county worker says:

    Great job Gabe Gonzalez!!!

    All the younger workers at Rohnert Park should sing your praises. What’s happening is one generation (i.e. boomers) have made agreements between themselves that will be funded by the next generation of city employees and taxpayers.

    The problem is taxes and fees are pretty much maxed out so the only way to pay increases to cover retiring/retired employees is to lay off younger workers and cut services. We’re all on the same conveyor belt toward insolvency without major reforms.

    Would love to see Gabe Gonzalez apply for or run for Sonoma County Treasurer, Auditor, Tax Collector…be a good replacement to Rod Dole.

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  3. John Blasfort says:

    All of you Gabe Gonzales fans are in for a rude awakening. There are currently two separate investigations being conducted by a media source and a private investigator into his background.The Rohnert Park Public Safety Department never ran a criminal background check on him prior to his employment as city manager.The recruiting firm that recruited him only checked his references in Mendota,they never accessed national law enforcement data bases that require fingerprinting as they do not have access to those databases as a civilian company. All of Rohnert Parks previous city managers had background checks run through Rohnert Park Public Safety. Stay Tuned!!

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  4. jobob94928 says:

    The city manager is a axe man, cares nothing for employees, the concessions that management took fail in comparison.

    For those of you that do not realize this you are higher than some council members, who serve on the smart board.

    Members of Seiu have been paying 7% to their retirement for years, only now have the other units caught up, this last contract they picked up another 1% for a total of 8%.

    AS far as the no fluff for management all they took was a reduction in overtime and losing the ability to cash in administrative leave.

    They (management)still get a unrestricted use of a gas card, housing allowance, car allowance.
    http://cityofrohnertpark.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/a-little-info/

    Slowly but surely they are killing the faith and faith and loyalty of their employees.

    Why would you ask so much from so few, only to raise the salary on a
    Economic Development Manager
    http://cityofrohnertpark.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/why/

    Originally the salary was almost half, but as a member of the management team they realize they could not attract anyone with half a brain for 50-60k a year for that position.

    Yes WE the unions saved them money.

    Yes We the unions made cuts.

    However

    Management needs to lead by example in the future.

    AND lets hope this is not swept under the rug till next year

    The public and citizens need to know how their money is being spent

    stay tunned

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  5. GforGreed says:

    Say what you will about unions; their functionality is always up for debate, but don’t forget; the freedom of association and right to organize convention is a crucial element is assuring the fair treatment of laborers.

    In this case, a financially-strapped local government (due to the inability of governing bodies to properly manage assets– that is, your tax dollars) is attempting to fill a substantial deficit in the general fund.

    Their methods of doing such, true to form, involved several underhanded bargaining techniques in their attempt to fill the deficit with money from the paychecks of several groups of employees who had in years previous had been already cut back drastically. The salaries of employees represented by SEIU and RPEA represent a small fraction of Rohnert Park’s annual expenditure out of the general fund.

    These units were absolutely willing to take on further cuts, in addition to those from years past which still gouge their checks significantly, but their refusal was based upon the failure of management to also take significant cuts. The unions to which they belong gave them a means to stand up, unified, against a city manager and his negotiators who were pulling no stops and refusing to cut back the salaries and stipends of upper management. Do a little research into how much Mr. Gonzales pulls in annually, and the house and car stipends you, the taxpayer are providing for him in these difficult times. He can darn well afford to at least meet the bargaining units on their cuts.

    These unions prevented, to some extent, the fleecing of city employees while upper management continues to line their pockets while they belay the financial crisis the city is in.

    If you are set on being outraged, why not crunch some numbers, do some research, and see for yourself who’s really sitting pretty; because it sure isn’t the unions.

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  6. John bly says:

    Gonzales and Belaforte should have a statue erected to honor their efforts. Great job and I also credit the unions for stepping up and making the right decision for the City. Kudos to all involved. Now let’s make sure the City spends wisely.

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  7. bear says:

    OK where are all you union haters?

    Unions are giving back, despite the fact that conservative politics, economic and foreign policies, and elected officials are totally reponsible for the current economy and the city’s failure to honor previously agreed upon contracts. How does this make us wrong?

    Should we all work for free?

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  8. Dan Delgado says:

    Again, Gabe Gonzalez gets my vote for Man of the Year. Hope other cities are watching.

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