Sanders’ Privatization Derailed Again

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ outsourcing program, which hasn’t exactly gone smoothly since being approved by voters in 2006, was dealt another blow last week.

The California Public Employees Relations Board ruled Friday that Sanders, acting on advice from City Attorney Mike Aguirre, didn’t bargain in good faith with the city’s unions, nor did he follow proper impasse procedures as the city worked to implement the program, dubbed “managed competition.”

The ruling by an administrative law judge means that managed competition, which has been beset with delays and controversy for more than a year and a half, will be delayed for at least several more months, maybe longer, said Sanders spokesman Darren Pudgil.

“Unfortunately, we had to rely on the City Attorney’s advice — which proved once again to be unreliable,” Pudgil said.

The judge, Thomas J. Allen, made it clear in his ruling that Aguirre’s advice was central to the city acting in bad faith.

Here is an excerpt:

The City Attorney made clear, of course, that in his view there was no duty to bargain, and therefore no impasse, and therefore no need for an impasse hearing. I have concluded otherwise. Unfortunately, the City Attorney’s advice helped make sure that no proper impasse hearing occurred.

Aguirre said the city should appeal the ruling, arguing that it essentially takes away power in the collective bargaining process that was given to Sanders when the strong mayor form of government was approved by voters in 2005.

“If this were to stand, it would literally — when it comes to collective bargaining — overturn the vote of the people to have a strong mayor,” Aguirre said.

Pudgil said the administration isn’t planning to appeal the ruling, but will be reviewing it over the next several days.

The principles behind managed competition, a far-reaching effort to privatize city services ranging from trash pick-up to tree-trimming, have been central to Sanders’ agenda since he took office in 2005. The city employee unions, along with other labor groups have fought Sanders on the program every step of the way.

“This turns back the clock on managed competition for sure,” said Joan Raymond, president of AFSCME Local 127, which represents the city’s blue-collar workers. Raymond said the unions and the mayor had had several negotiating sessions on the program before Sanders abruptly cut them off.

Specifically, the ruling stated that Sanders must rescind the managed competition guidebook completed in late 2007, which includes the statements of work for individual city services, and start over again at the bargaining table with the unions.

The ruling also requires that City Council hold proper impasse hearings on managed competition and on a charter amendment passed in 2006 that requires voters to approve increases in pension benefits.

DAVID WASHBURN

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