In an item put on the consent agenda, the city is asking for council to allocated an additional 75,000 to the contract for the professional negotiator who is negotiating the new MOUs with the bargaining units.
The staff report downplays this move not only by placing it as a consent item, but noting that the “funds are already in the budget and no additional funding is requested from other sources. The funds are being moved from one self-insurance account to a professional services self-insurance account.”
However, as the staff report notes, the city entered into a professional services agreement with Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP in December of 2011, to provide labor negotiation services for the labor negotiations with all the employee groups. The initial contract contained a maximum compensation amount of $50,000.
While the city attempts to downplay it by suggesting that the “consultant costs have now almost reached the $50,000 maximum amount, and negotiations are not yet complete.”
However, this authorization would increase the amount by an additional $75,000, meaning that it would more than double the existing contract.
This naturally implies that the city vastly underestimated the original costs of the service or that talks are not going well.
The Vanguard has strongly supported the use of a professional negotiator who would have the ability to take a number of problems out of the hands of management that has to work with the employees groups before, during, and after negotiations.
While the negotiation process is cloaked in confidentiality, this is the latest public signal that suggests that we are gearing up for a massive showdown.
Back in April, the City of Davis was able to take advantage of the vacancies in fire management positions to create a separate MOU for the vacant fire management employee positions.
As the staff report noted, “During the last round of negotiations, the previous management incumbents of the Fire Department requested the City pull the Fire positions out of the Individual Management Employees MOU and create a separate contract for these employees.”
The council was able to use the vacant contracts to create the exact contract that they are looking for.
In so doing, they ensured that city employees would cover their full share of employee contributions to their retirement. In this contract, a new agreement, employees will contribute an additional 3% to CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System).
Moreover, it sets up a “reduced second-tier retirement benefit for new employees, as early as July 1, 2012.”
On retiree medical benefits, the city opted not to limit themselves: “Staff does not want to limit the options available during the negotiation process regarding retiree medical benefits, so have chosen not to address that particular benefit in these work rules.”
They note: “Currently the Fire Management employees are tied to the Davis Firefighter Local 3494 regarding retiree medical benefits by statute through CalPERS. These work rules do not address the retiree medical benefit, other than acknowledge the connection between the two groups. The City is currently in negotiations with Local 3494 and any changes to the retiree medical benefit will be addressed in those negotiations and will also apply to the Fire Management employees.”
Finally they deal with the cafeteria cashout: “The current contract provides a cash payout to any employee not taking the full health insurance allowance. The new contract would cap the cash-out provision for current employees at $500 per month.”
They add: “Effective with this agreement, the City will contribute $1,485 to an employee’s cafeteria plan to purchase health insurance. Effective with the January 2012 premium increase, the City will contribute up to an additional 3% to health premiums to offset any health insurance increases and employees will contribute the balance, if any.”
However, two weeks ago, the firefighters struck back using two members of the public in an odd move seemed to designed to rally public support to a sagging image but at the very least object to the terms of the new contract.
The more explicit comments were made by Norbie Kumagai who described the firefighters who make an average of $150,000 in total compensation, as “these selfless individuals” who “constantly place themselves in harm’s way.” He added, “What other profession do you know of where individuals leave for work not knowing if they will see their family at the end of their shift? Most people take this for granted.”
He spent some time talking about staffing issues and response time, and then he finally got to the point.
“I understand that the City of Davis is in the process of filling a position for Division Chief; several well-qualified internal candidates experienced professionals tested for the position. My understanding is midway through the process, the city re-wrote a new contract for this job description after the internal applicants completed the testing process,” he said.
“Changing the rules in the middle of the game strikes me as unethical and disingenuous,” he charged. “Not to mention, fostering or potentially fostering a negative and adversarial relationship. Please allow the selected candidates to accept the positions under the current contract and give them the opportunity [to accept the] upcoming contract fairly and in good faith.”
If the firefighters are looking for help in the council elections, it does not appear likely to emerge.
The Vanguard last week asked the council candidates if they would seek the support of city employee groups for their campaigns. It appears only Stephen Souza, who has long been a reliable proponent of city employees in general and the firefighters in particular is willing to do so.
Mr. Souza responded to the Vanguard’s question, “Currently, I have received the endorsement of the Firefighters Association-I have not been informed regarding the Police Officers Association yet.”
“Whoever is elected to serve for the next four years will have difficult issues to resolve. We have to find a balance between our unfunded liabilities and doing right by the people who serve our city every day,” he said. “They will be difficult negotiations. It will be important to have respected and trusted leadership in place to guide that process.”
On the other hand, unlike past elections in which Mr. Souza twice received nearly $4000 in direct and another $8000 to $16000 in independent expenditures, this time, he says, “have received no local financial compensation from any labor union, and further in all my conversations I have been very frank about my fiduciary duty to our citizens. When it comes to the people of Davis’ money I will be fair. When it comes to employee compensation, we also need to be fair and reasonable.”
The other candidates however drew a far tighter line.
Sue Greenwald, an incumbent, said, “It probably would not be wise accept such help or contributions so at this point in time anyway because we have to negotiate some tough changes and could make it uncomfortable for us to do so if these folks have given us extra help.”
Dan Wolk, an appointed incumbent likewise said, “I haven’t sought (nor received) any contribution or assistance from Davis city employee groups during this campaign, nor do I intend to, because we are in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations.”
“I think I have already demonstrated my independence and willingness to cast difficult votes that were not supported by our public employees, just as I have cast votes on other issues that not all my supporters agreed with. I listen to everyone, whether they support me or not, and make the best decision I can,” he said.
Brett Lee responded, “I have not received an endorsement from any employee group. In addition, I have not received or plan to accept any monetary contributions or campaign help from any employee group.”
When he met with the police officers’ association, he said, “I was candid and told them that I thought the city employees’ compensation package was unsustainable and that there would need to be cuts. “
He added, “I do not think it is appropriate for council members or candidates to receive money from employee groups or developers that have business before the city. It can give the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Lucas Frerichs indicated, “I have not accepted the endorsement or contributions (monetary or otherwise) from public employee groups.”
He would add, “Although a $100 contribution would never sway my vote- for or against any project- my eight-year public track record on both the Planning Commission and Social Services Commission demonstrate that I will do what is best for the citizens of Davis.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting