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More on this post from yesterday: I spoke with firefighter union president Ron Saathoff, and he says there was no confidentiality agreement in place for labor talks with the city this year.

Although agreements are made typically not to discuss details of negotiations with the press, Saathoff said the City Attorney’s Office couldn’t promise confidentiality at the onset of negotiations, so the firefighters union didn’t promise it either. (I put a call into the City Attorney’s Office and am waiting for comment. City Attorney Mike Aguirre had earlier called for labor talks to be held in public this year.)

Over the weekend, the firefighters’ airing of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposal for a public safety retirement package caused a public-relations dust up between the firefighters and police officers union.

A couple more things on the talks:

  • The Police Officers Association has now taken both the mayor and the firefighters union to task for not keeping details confidential. Sanders apologized to the POA after suggesting publicly that the controversial retirement program DROP be done away with.
  • Saathoff said the firefighters have asked for a five-year contract that would, he said, bring the department up to the average of the top 10 cities in California. He said he didn’t know exactly what kind of benefit and salary increases that would entail. The Mayor’s Office, in addition to the two pension changes detailed in our earlier post, has proposed no salary increases and eliminating union-sponsored health care plans, Saathoff said.

The union president said recruitment and retention are also becoming a problem in the fire department because of pay issues. “Our problem is not as bad as the police, I acknowledge that,” he said. “(But) we are facing turnover.”

Sanders wants to sign one-year contracts with police and fire so that all five bargaining units will be at the table next year, when the mayor plans to push for a new pension system.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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