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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 12th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 49

SEIU holds out on city contract

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

As Santa Maria city employees barrel into another fiscal year of concessions, one group is still holding strong to the desire to take less of a pay cut.

Police groups agreed to contracts signed off by the Santa Maria City Council on Feb. 5. Firefighters and city managers agreed to contracts to be heard by the council on Feb. 19. SEIU Local 620, representing 270 Santa Maria city employees, is the lone group waiting to complete contract negotiations.

Local 620 representative Bruce Corsaw said one of the reasons the workers SEIU represents haven’t settled their contract yet is that the city hasn’t accepted their offer of 3.2 percent concessions.

“The city is asking for too much from our workers,” Corsaw said. “We just can’t afford to balance the city’s budget anymore.”

He said SEIU-represented workers are sick of paying more in concessions than the other groups and that the contract offered by the city is unfair.

Concessions work differently for each group. Police and fire take the hit in the form of fewer vacation days, while other city employees take the hit in furlough days, or mandatory days off without pay.

Because of the recession, the city has placed concessions in the contracts they negotiate for each fiscal year since 2009. For the last three years, police and firefighters have taken about 4 percent concessions, and other groups of city workers had around 5 percent.

Deputy City Manager Alicia Lara said when safety workers take time off, there’s often a need to replace them with someone working overtime. Therefore, it ends up costing the city money, which is one reason safety workers pay about 1 percent less in concessions than the other city groups.

Police agreed to 2.5 to 3.5 percent concessions. Although she couldn’t speak about the specifics, Lara said city employees across the board will be paying approximately 1.5 percent less in concessions than they did last year.

“The package that’s on the table from the city [for SEIU-represented workers] is very similar to the one that management accepted,” Lara said.

Concessions saved the city an estimated $1 million in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Lara said the city was able to negotiate fewer concessions in this year’s contracts because they are starting to see the recession’s end in sight.

“We know four years is a long time,” Lara said. “For fiscal year 2013-14, we’re hoping that we’re not going to have to ask for concessions.”