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Santa Clara Firefighters Agreed to Pay Concessions

Editor’s note: In last week’s edition we incorrectly reported that six city employee bargaining groups had agreed to concessions to their current contracts (Memorandums of Understanding, MOUs). At the time, only four unions had come to an agreement with the City, and of these only two had signed the agreements.

Five of Santa Clara’s employee bargaining units have agreed to pay concessions instead of layoffs needed to help close the City’s $10 million deficit, according to Deputy City Manager Carol McCarthy.

On Monday, Santa Clara Firefighters agreed to accept salary concessions in the face of the City’s ongoing budget deficit. That brings five to the number of bargaining groups that have agreed to take-home pay reductions and a 2011 pay freeze, rather than face layoffs.

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A tentative agreement was reached this week with Santa Clara’s Police Officers Association (POA), and a vote of the union membership is scheduled January 18. The union’s MOU expired in December. When the negotiations on the new contract stalled, the City Council scheduled an impasse hearing for January 4. The hearing was cancelled when discussions between the City and the POA resumed.

Two bargaining groups that rejected concession requests may be back at the bargaining table, say sources in the City Manager’s office. The Public Safety Non-Sworn Employees Association, which voted earlier not to accept concessions, is reconsidering; as is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) – which declined to consider changes to its current MOU – has expressed some interest in discussion.

The cuts will help close the City’s $10 million deficit, according to Deputy City Manager Carol McCarthy, reducing general fund spending $10 million annually – $5 million over the rest of the current fiscal year. Total savings across all city budgets – general operating, capital improvement, and electric, water and sewer utilities – will add up to $13 million a year.

Discussions also continue with Engineers of the City of Santa Clara and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Due to the City’s continuing budget deficit, last year the City asked its employee bargaining units to forgo 2011 raises and cut pay about five percent – through either salary cuts or unpaid furloughs. The alternative is layoffs for about 15 percent of Santa Clara’s municipal workforce to achieve the needed spending reductions.

For those employee bargaining units that don’t agree to concessions, employees who received layoff notices on Dec. 9, 2010 will be laid off as of January 16, 2011.

Santa Clara isn’t alone in seeking concessions from public employees. Across California, governments are trying to cut salary and benefit costs. Governor Brown has proposed cutting take-home pay for a third of state employees by eight to ten percent, bringing them in line with reductions negotiated by former governor Schwarzenegger last year with the state’s other bargaining units.

For more information, visit http://santaclaraca.gov/index.aspx?page=117. Carolyn Schuk can be reached at cschuk@earthlink.net.

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