City, Public Employee Unions Keep Striving for Contract

The City Council plans to resume closed-session labor negotiations with the municipality’s unions at a special meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
The meeting comes after a closed special meeting on Friday, Sept. 13. Negotiations have taken place throughout a half-dozen similarly closed sessions since the spring.
There are unions for the city’s police officers, firefighters, general employees and supervisory and confidential employees. Their previous contract, a three-year agreement, lapsed on June 30 with the start of the current fiscal year, meaning that those employees continue to operate within that contract’s parameters by default.
City Manager Marcella Marlowe indicated union employees were likely to benefit from retroactive compensation dating to July 1 once an agreement is reached.
“As a result of everybody’s good intentions and sincere desire to come to an agreement throughout this process, retroactivity is not an issue at this point,” Marlowe said in a telephone interview.
Labor negotiations typically concern pay and benefits for employees and can occasionally address pension rates and workplace conditions. Union membership does not include department heads and mid-level managers — for example, the police chief and commanders — and they are typically not involved in labor negotiations unless an operational question comes into play.
Only two of the current council members — Mayor Steven Huang and Councilman Steve Talt — were serving during the prior labor negotiation. That means most of the panel — Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey, Councilwoman Susan Jakubowski and Councilman Ken Ude — is new to the process in the public sector.
Another unique issue that may present itself concerns Measure SM, the public safety parcel tax whose renewal will be sought in the Nov. 5 election. The parcel tax has historically generated in excess of $3 million annually for the police and fire departments, and should it fail, both would likely be forced into budget trimming.
Details of the negotiations and what the unions are asking for remain in the dark. Public bodies are required to have closed sessions on items including labor negotiations and can report only whether a decision was made once a session ends.
As such, the unions — which are being represented by the same legal counsel — declined a statement.

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