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When things aren’t going your way, you try to change the argument.

That’s what a local labor organization did Wednesday on the city of San Diego’s eternally stalled outsourcing program. Blamed by Mayor Jerry Sanders and others for blocking outsourcing’s implementation, the city’s blue-collar union pointed out that it’s been 160 days since both sides declared negotiations deadlocked. Since then, there’s been no movement.

“Given the mayor’s continued and excessive accusations that unions are stalling this process, the delay by the city is absolutely inexplicable,” wrote Damian Tryon, business representative for the blue-collar union in a letter to the city’s human resources director dated Wednesday.

In October, City Council rejected Sanders’ proposal to resolve the deadlock. There’s been no public peep about the issue since.

Evan McLaughlin, political director for umbrella group San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and a former voiceofsandiego.org reporter, said the council was clear in its opinion of the mayor’s proposal last fall. He wondered why the mayor hasn’t acted on one of his signature financial reforms.

“If it’s the centerpiece of his platform,” McLaughlin said, “he should focus on it.”

The answer is simple, mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing said. Sanders was waiting for the council.

Under rules developed by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, the council must give direction to the city’s labor negotiating team if the council rejects the mayor’s proposal.

City negotiators received that direction this Tuesday, Laing said. The city has now scheduled negotiating sessions with both blue- and white-collar unions later this month.

And, though Sanders had earlier blamed unions for delaying outsourcing, he hasn’t called them out since October. Laing rejected Tryon’s contention that Sanders was lobbing accusations this time around.

“Where is it being said period in the last few months that labor has been stalling it?” Laing asked. “I haven’t said it. I haven’t seen it said.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the delays in implementing the outsourcing program. Sanders and others have pointed to the thousands of hours required to negotiate. Union leaders wonder why Sanders shifted positions on the exclusion of health care and other issues from competitive bidding.

The result? Not a single city service has been privatized or put to bid through the process that voters approved in 2006.

— LIAM DILLON

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