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Santa Rosa employees push for first raise in years

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Most Santa Rosa government employees have been working without a contract since July 1 as negotiations drag on over whether they should get raises for the first time in years.

“It’s moving slowly,” acknowledged Human Resources Director Fran Elm.

Santa Rosa Council Chambers at City HallIn previous years, union groups have been more motivated to accept concessions to prevent layoffs of colleagues and help the city through challenging budget times.

But this year, with the budget bouncing back somewhat and city hiring again, bargaining units are done giving concessions and are holding out hope for a restoration of raises that many employees have forgone for three years, Elm said.

Most employees have gone without cost-of-living increases for three years and gave up unpaid furloughs of between 3 and 5 percent of salary to help ease the budget crunch.

The city is no longer asking for furloughs but doesn’t feel the time is right for a restoration of raises, Elm said.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said.

Police and police management unions aren’t currently in negotiations. But all other 10 groups are, and so far only one has struck a deal with the city.

The 55 civilian police employees — including dispatchers and evidence technicians — represented by SEIU have agreed to another year without raises.

But their furloughs are also going away, meaning they’ll see a 3 percent increase in take-home pay this year.

The City Council approved the one-year contract 6-0 Tuesday.

Other city employees have enjoyed the same 3 percent increase in take-home pay since July 1, when their previously agreed furloughs expired with their most recent contract.

Mike Reynolds, president of the city’s largest union, the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, said the non-public safety employees he represents believe the economy and the budget have improved to the point that concessions are no longer needed.

In the past three years, SRCEA employees have given up raises and accepted furloughs valued at a total of $8.3 million, Reynolds said. So from his perspective Reynolds thinks the time has come for raises to return.

“We would like it to be back on the table,” Reynolds said.

That may all hinge on the health of the city’s pension plans. A change in the assumptions of the state Public Employee Retirement System is currently being analyzed by the city’s actuary, who plans to outline the impacts for the council in early August.

City finance staff has said the hit to the city could be substantial. Some employee groups appear to be waiting to see what the actuarial report says before striking an agreement, Elm said.

Reynolds said he believes the city’s pension funds are far healthier than have been portrayed.

“The city is is good shape,” Reynolds said. “We are not Stockton. We are not Vallejo. The city has been very well run for years.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.





8 Responses to “Santa Rosa employees push for first raise in years”

  1. GAJ says:

    Detroit Public Employee retirees are looking at possible benefit cuts…even those already retired.

    Detroit may be an extreme example of what runaway costs can do to a municipality.

    Detroit has $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liability, but teeny weeny Santa Rosa is at $100 million and growing.

    The combined debt for all California Public Employees, State and Local is $330 billion.

  2. Larry Watkins says:

    A wage raise is a wage raise or wage increase by another name. These public “servants” should try working at Sears or some other job where they haven’t received a wage raise in years.

    Then they might appreciate a 3% increase in their pay, call it what they may.

  3. Cedric Pigg says:

    I don’t agree, Ricardo Sorentino. Agilent employees took a 10% pay cut a few years ago and, when it was restored, it was not characterized as a “raise” either. Why the double standard?

  4. Do The Math says:

    RE: Ricardo Sorentino

    The math is actually pretty basic if you know what you are talking about. The pay scale never actually changed, employees are earning the same amount per hour as they did 3 years ago.

    From Article 19 of the MOU for Units 4, 6, & 7: Effective July 1, 2011, Unit employees are responsible for taking 68.5 hours of Mandatory Time Off (MTO) leave without pay by June 30, 2012…The corresponding pay reduction shall be amortized throughout the remainder of the fiscal year and SHALL NOT AFFECT THE EMPLOYEE’S BASE RATE PAY.

    I think you may want to consider hiring a math tutor.

  5. Accountable says:

    If the city’s finances are in such good shape, then why has the lawn irrigation in public parks been turned off? And, why have half the city’s street lights been turned off?

    Why is the city adding personnel, when basic services for the taxpayer have been cut? I will not be voting for ANY of the incumbent City Council members, if they continue to prove they are clueless in managing an organization’s finances.

  6. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Cedric Pigg – “Just for clarity, the 3% “increase” is actually a reinstatement of pay that was conceded as part of the effort to help the City’s budget stay healthy. It is not actually a “raise”.

    It’s ‘not a raise’ must be some of that ‘new math’. Irrespective of what financial cuts transpired before, a 3% increase is still an increase in their current pay, which means it is a ‘raise’ from the current pay scale.

    You can look at however you want, but it’s still a raise.

  7. GAJ says:

    I feel bad for these employees as they have borne the brunt of sacrifices and layoffs due to the budget crisis.

    Public Safety has been eating their lunch and the taxpayers’ lunch since 2002.

  8. Cedric Pigg says:

    Just for clarity, the 3% “increase” is actually a reinstatement of pay that was conceded as part of the effort to help the City’s budget stay healthy. It is not actually a “raise”.