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City of San Diego outsourcing proponents are fond of fulminating against labor unions for stalling the plan’s implementation for three years. (See: Sanders, Mayor Jerry)

But at yesterday’s City Council labor impasse hearing — which resulted in another return to the negotiating table — one union said it could have ended the outsourcing problem years ago.

White-collar union head Michael Zucchet offered up the county of San Diego’s outsourcing program as a solution. The county has allowed outsourcing and competition for public services for at least 10 years, and outsourced more than 150 jobs as recently as two weeks ago.

Zucchet told council that everyone could have saved time had the city adopted the county’s policy, which his Municipal Employees Association had offered:

I have to bristle somewhat at the suggestion that MEA has stonewalled this process. I would remind everybody in the room, the council and the mayor’s negotiating team that MEA came forward two years ago with the much ballyhooed county of San Diego model. They have a managed competition guide. We held it up at the beginning of negotiations and said, “You know what, this ain’t bad. We’ll take this.” The city said, “No.” The city said, “No.”

This is the county of San Diego. Not exactly a socialist state over there. We were willing to adopt it lock, stock and barrel two years ago, and the city said, “No.”

Today, I spoke with Scott Chadwick, a city negotiator and human resources director, about Zucchet’s remark.

“It’s true that they did offer that up and said, ‘Look just take the county guide’,” Chadwick said.

But MEA made that offer in the middle of prior negotiations, Chadwick said, when Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Office was relying on labor advice from former City Attorney Mike Aguirre. The Mayor’s Office also didn’t want to throw out the work it had done previously.

“We followed [Aguirre’s] advice and we felt the program we had in place was as good a tool or better than the county’s model,” Chadwick said.

I asked Chadwick if the Mayor’s Office had reconsidered that position in light of last summer’s labor law ruling that threw out prior agreements on the outsourcing program. The Mayor’s Office has reconsidered prior agreements — though ones not made during labor negotiations — related to health care.

“That’s certainly an interesting suggestion,” Chadwick said, reiterating that the city believed it could do better.

Chadwick added he was unsure if the other labor union in the outsourcing deadlock, blue-collar Local 127, would have accepted the county plan.

“We’ve never received that indication from 127,” he said.

I asked if the county-option is something under consideration in light of yesterday’s council rejection of the mayor’s plan. Chadwick said further negotiations are scheduled to resume at a closed-session of City Council in two weeks. Any decision on the county plan will be addressed then.


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