Monday, June 27, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Oakland Strikes Deals with Four Major City Unions

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the city council have reached tentative agreements with four public-employee unions that will save the city about $28 million a year, union officials said on Monday. The deals are with the city's police and fire unions and with Professional & Technical Engineers Local 21 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245. Each has agreed to concessions of 9 percent, although each has chosen to structure the givebacks differently, union officials said.

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The union concessions will allow the city to stave off planned major cuts to city services, including proposed cuts to libaries, parks, tree maintenance, and arts funding. "It's certainly painful for our members, but everybody understands how difficult the situation is for the city ... and we're willing to step up and do our share," said Jeff Levin of Local 21.

The tentative agreements are subject to a vote by each union's rank-and-file membership. Levin said his union would be voting on it tomorrow. The city council has scheduled a special budget session tomorrow night.

Local 21's tentative agreement calls for an extension of the twelve unpaid furlough days that city workers have taken in the past few years, plus another eight "floating" unpaid days that would be used at each employee's discretion and thus would not force the city to close for business. Local 21 also agreed to forgo merit raises for the next two years.

The Oakland police union, meanwhile, has finally agreed to pay 9 percent of its pension plan, a concession that the union refused to make last year and resulted in the lay off of eighty cops. Firefighters have agreed to 9 percent compensation cuts. The firefighters' union told the Chronicle late last week that its concessions would save the city about $9.5 million a year.

The only major city union that has not reached a tentative agreement yet is SEIU Local 1021. If that union strikes a deal with the city as well, then the total savings from the five union deals would be about $40 million for all of the city's various funds. "Hopefully, they're close," Levin said, referring to 1021.

Update 3:15 p.m.: Mayor Quan said that the city has reached a tentative agreement with SEIU Local 1021 as well. "All that is left is clean-up language," she said.

As for the tentative deals, she said, "We've been moving steadily with all of the unions for a while now, and all of them are in various stages of ratification and clean-up language. I'm very optimistic."

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