Unions agree to labor deal saving city millions

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San Diego city moneySAN DIEGO — The six unions that represent city of San Diego employees have tentatively agreed to a five-year labor deal that is expected to save the city millions of dollars and largely end a 6 percent salary cut implemented several years ago, it was announced Tuesday.

Mayor Bob Filner estimated that the city will save $25 million in each of the first two fiscal years, of which $20 million will stay in the general fund, which pays for basic services like public safety and parks. The savings in the third year will be around $10 million, said Filner, who pushed for such a deal during last year’s mayoral campaign.

“That’s an incredible amount of money for our budget,” Filner said.

The savings will come from lower annual city contributions to the employee retirement system.

In exchange, municipal workers will see their furlough days reduced over the first three years and receive other perks which vary by union.

Councilman David Alvarez said the deal is the best for taxpayers.

“It gives our employees some certainty, but we also are able to plan out over the future years for more services, which is really what taxpayers want,” Alvarez said. “They want to see some of those services that have been taken away restored.”

The proposed deal would also implement a key provision of a pension reform initiative passed by voters last year, which places a five-year limit on the type of compensation that workers can use to later calculate their retirement pay.

The pay raises, which employees won’t be able to figure into their future retirement income, would eat up about half of the projected savings the first two years, according to Filner. The mayor said city workers “have suffered a great deal” as San Diego recovered from the recession.

The rank-and-file of all six labor groups need to ratify the contract, which would then be voted on by the City Council.

The San Diego Police Officers Association would receive a boost in total compensation of 2 percent in the upcoming fiscal year. Officers have been leaving the San Diego Police Department in droves for nearby agencies in recent years, mainly because of wide differences in take-home pay, according to officials with both the SDPOA and SDPD.

The raise in future years would be 1 percent, 2 percent, 1 percent and 1 percent.

The union and city officials said the raises are lower than for some other unions, but are offset by other provisions of their agreement. An SDPOA representative said a statement would be sent later.

Firefighters and lifeguards would be boosted 2.25 percent, 1.25 percent and 1.75 percent over the next three years. After that, they could reopen negotiations over pay, the mayor said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 127; San Diego Municipal Employees Association and Deputy City Attorneys Association would get an extra 1.75 percent pay hike in each of the next three years. They would also be able to reopen negotiations over compensation beginning with the fourth year.

Interim Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick said the city calculates the pay increases per union. The extra compensation could vary by employee, however.

The MEA, which has the most members of the six city unions, said in a posting on its website that its average worker would get an average increase of 7.7 percent over three years.

—- Story by James R. Riffel of City News Service

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