Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 10, Issue 44
Lompoc officials, police officers square off over labor negotiations
By AMY ASMAN
Highly contested labor negotiations between the Lompoc Police Officers Association and the city of Lompoc have ended with the city imposing an almost 11 percent cut in pay and benefits on its law enforcement employees.
Narrowly approved by the City Council on Jan. 5, the cuts will begin on Jan. 22 and last for 12 pay periods. After the first six months, the reductions will level off at 5 percent to match cuts sustained by the city’s other two unions—Teamsters Union, Local 381, and Lompoc City Firefighters International, Local 1906.
The imposed contract will allow the city to retroactively garner funds it would’ve received from association members had negotiations not drawn out for more than a year, according to William Yanonis, the city’s human resources director and lead negotiator.
The decision stems from a previously agreed upon “most favored nation”—or “me too”—clause that requires the city to give all its unions the same benefits, Yanonis explained.
In an interview with the Sun, association president Sgt. Bryan Dillard said the cuts are “extremely frustrating” for his members.
“To hit us with an 11 percent cut, we thought, was a little excessive,” Dillard said. “It’s like we’re being punished for practicing our right to go through the negotiation process.
“If we’re able to come up with better solutions and proposals, it should be recognized,” he said.
Dillard said association representatives provided several alternative fund-saving measures, such as leaving a vacant patrol officer position open for the next two years.
However, Yanonis said the option “was never communicated to me at the table. It might have been a back door deal, but I never knew about it.”
Additionally, Dillard went on to say that his organization believes the city’s most favored nation clause kept representatives from negotiating in good faith because they had already reached agreements with the teamsters’ and firefighters’ unions.
“They didn’t negotiate with us because it would have cost them more money,” Dillard said.
In response to the association’s claims, Yanonis said the imposed decision “represents the same cuts as every other employee.”
“The longer negotiations went on, the smaller the window for savings got,” he said, so the city had to level the playing field, so to speak.
Yanonis also said the claim that the most favored nation clause prevented the city from negotiating fairly is unfounded because “they asked for [the clause]” during labor negotiations in August 2009.
“If it’s so onerous, why did they ask for it?” he said.
The city and the association are currently embroiled in a string of lawsuits related to the failed negotiations.
Last year, the city filed a lawsuit against the association for “unfair labor practice,” claiming the organization was stalling negotiations by changing legal representation.
Meanwhile, the association filed its own suit claiming the city’s failure to advance paperwork related to the case prevented it from reentering labor negotiations.
“I don’t think anyone would want to go to court without bringing their attorney up to speed,” Dillard said.
Both of the suits are still in litigation, along with a “donning and doffing” suit filed by the association, which aims to increase officers’ pay by about 30 minutes to give them time to “don and doff” protective gear necessitated by their work.
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