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A day after the City Council rejected the mayor’s labor proposals, many questions remained today surrounding the union contracts, and the mayor’s statements have not yet clarified how the next few months will shape up for the city of San Diego and its unions.

Although last night’s impasse hearings were premised on the notion that no more negotiation was possible — hence the “impasse” — the mayor agreed last night at the 11th hour to incorporate the Municipal Employee Association’s pension plan into the contract package.

“In order to achieve meaningful pension reform and with prospects of no reform whatsoever, I continued negotiating in good faith,” Sanders said today at a press conference.

But after the council rejected his newly revised labor contract, the mayor said he would take the pension plan to the voters in November.  “Everything is off the table at this point,” Sanders said in the Union-Tribune today. “Bargaining is over.”

Today at a press conference, however, the mayor took on a more conciliatory tone. “We’re always willing to talk,” he said. “I am never willing to shut a door unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Regardless of the option, however, the mayor also added that he felt productive talks would be very unlikely.

When asked by a reporter why his statements differed in less than 24 hours, the mayor said it had been a long night last night.

If the talks don’t take place, moreover, it is also unknown for now what the November ballot will look like. The mayor declined to state whether the November ballot initiative would be his original proposal, or the MEA plan he agreed to last night or something different from both.

The mayor had originally proposed imposing a contract on the unions that represent white-collar and blue-collar City Hall workers, as well as deputy city attorneys. The contract included no wage increases and a consolidated health care package, in addition to a plan to create a new hybrid pension system for new employees.

For now, it seems that the wage and healthcare components of the mayor’s proposal will not appear on the November ballot, but the pension proposal would. Mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz said that because healthcare and wages are negotiated from year to year, it would not be appropriate for voters to permanently ratify those proposals into law.

“There’s a difference between benefits of employment versus pension benefits,” he explained. “One is completely negotiable as an employment right and that’s what pay and healthcare typically is whereas pension benefits are typically vested. When you go to the ballot … it has to be something forever.”

The mayor admitted that he and his staff had considered going to the voters days before the City Council hearing yesterday, a revelation that drew the ire of San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez.

“I don’t know how they could even imply that they were negotiating with good faith (when) they said they would take this to the voters,” Gonzalez said. “That’s a threat, that’s not negotiation.”


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