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Before Mayor Jerry Sanders takes the step of placing his pension plan for new City Hall employees on the November ballot, he might just be able to achieve pension reform months earlier by entering into negotiations with three City Hall labor unions.
A day after the City Council rejected the mayor’s labor contract after he declared a negotiation “impasse” with three City Hall unions, the blue-collar workers’ union, Local 127, expressed desires on Tuesday to resume bargaining. The two other unions representing white collar workers and deputy city attorneys said they have no such desires to bargain with Sanders, unless the mayor stepped forward and said he wanted to negotiate.
Local 127 has also received permission to strike from the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, Local 127 President Joan Raymond said. But for now, the union is “imploring the mayor and the mayor’s staff to come back to the table,” she said, and views the strike as a less attractive choice.
The mayor thus far has not responded to Local 127’s request, and whether he agrees to any resumption of talks will depend on whether the unions are willing to alter City Hall’s current pension system, and whether they will bring other issues to the bargaining table besides pension, mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz said.
“Given the fact that the mayor is committed to no pay increase and healthcare consolidation, fruitful discussions would have to be centered around a new pension plan,” Sainz said. “I would not advise the unions to necessarily push on those two other issues because the city simply can’t afford it.”
On Tuesday the mayor said he was “always willing to talk,” but Sainz clarified the statement to mean that Sanders is not entirely open to negotiations, but open to discussing the idea of negotiations.
The Deputy City Attorneys Association and Municipal Employees Association have not sought a resumption of negotiations and said they would only do so if the mayor made the first move. Sainz, however, said that the MEA had verbally expressed desires to revisit talks.
Thus far, Sanders has not actively sought to resume negotiations, but Sainz said that “the mayor is not in this to give employee labor unions incentives.”
“Right now we think the ball is in the mayor’s court,” DCAA President Andrew Jones said. “He hasn’t offered us anything to entice us to go to the bargaining table. The mayor just wants to go to the table jut to negotiate the things that he thinks are important, and that’s not to our advantage.”
MEA General Manager Judie Italiano said given the mayor’s lack of outreach to resume negotiations, she did not think his office was sincerely considering returning to the bargaining table.
“I find it hard to think that they’re serious [about resuming negotiations],” she said. “The mayor and I have been friends for many, many years and if he wanted to find me he wouldn’t hesitate to call me. I don’t know what kind of game he’s playing.”
The mayor and the unions have been wrangling for months over a labor contract, and the negotiations reached an “impasse” last week over the mayor’s proposal to not raise wages, consolidate their healthcare plans and impose a hybrid pension plan.
During a City Council hearing on Monday, the mayor replaced his hybrid pension plan with the alternative pension policy proposed by the MEA, but even with the new revision the City Council rejected it with a 4-4 vote. It is now unclear what sort of pension plan the mayor will prioritize within future negotiations, should they happen, or on the November ballot.
The mayor claims that if all city employees, with the exception of police and firefighters, were currently enrolled the pension plan he’s proposing, the city would save $25 million a year.