Sacramento, union reach deal to save 80 city jobs

Ryan Lillis
Sacramento Bee
Aug 7, 2010

Roughly 80 Sacramento city workers who thought Friday would be their last day on the job will report to work Monday after their union reached a tentative agreement with the city on salary concessions.

Both sides said they were happy with an 11th-hour pact reached Friday that would require members of Local 39 – the largest city union – to take one furlough day a month and go without raises for the next two years.

In turn, city officials promised they would not lay off Local 39 members for a year, a time period interim City Manager Gus Vina said was "absolutely the best we could do" given the economic uncertainties facing City Hall.

Those who had been slated to lose their jobs included park maintenance workers, garbage truck drivers, non-emergency telephone operators and parking enforcement agents.

"Had we had these 80 individuals not show up to work next week, it would have had a major impact in the quality of life in our neighborhoods," said Councilman Kevin McCarty.

City budget officials were counting on $5.6 million worth of salary concessions from labor unions to close a $43 million deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

While the the deal reached Friday will save the city $8 million over the next two years, the pact – as well as deals reached with other smaller unions – will leave the city $1.2 million short of its labor savings goal. It's up to the council to find money to fill that gap.

The council had already voted to set aside more than $600,000 to delay the Local 39 layoffs. Workers had been scheduled to lose their jobs in July, but the delay allowed city and union negotiators time to hammer out a deal.

Local 39 members will now have to vote on whether to ratify the agreement. Joan Bryant, director of public employees for the union, said ratification of the deal should be "a fairly easy process." She said many Local 39 workers had expressed concern about the impending layoffs.

About 150 of the union's members signed an online petition in recent weeks urging the union to agree to salary concessions. Some members also had gone to the City Council and publicly criticized how the union was handling the negotiations.

"The membership spoke up and said, 'We don't want to sacrifice our own,' " Mayor Kevin Johnson said.

City Hall was filled with stories Friday about workers cleaning out their desks and employees attending going-away functions for those co-workers about to lose their jobs. It appears those plans can be put on hold – at least for now.

"There's 80 people in the city of Sacramento that were packing up and were planning on going home to tell their son or daughter or their family members that they're no longer going to be working," Johnson said. "And that is not the case."

Not everyone was pleased with the agreement's terms.

Budget officials had originally asked Local 39 to give back a 4 percent raise its members received last year when talks failed between the two sides and more than 100 workers lost their jobs as a result. But that giveback is not part of the tentative deal, accounting for the $1.2 million gap.

That fact has at least one other city union fuming.

"It sends the wrong message," said Brent Meyer, the president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association. "It means that if you hold out, you can pretty much dictate how things get done in the city."

The police union agreed to defer raises last year after just a few days of negotiating, an agreement that avoided police officer layoffs.

As part of their deal, officers will end up receiving a 6.5 percent raise between now and 2013. And the council recently voted to set aside enough money to hire 30 cops over the next two years.