The head of the Vallejo police officers union says he is disappointed the City Council unanimously approved a contract with police employees that includes a five percent pay cut and requires active and retired police employees to pay more for their health care. “The issue is not so much the pay cut but the promises made 25 years ago to retirees regarding their health care,” Vallejo Police Officers Association president Mat Mustard said.
The contract will expire on July 1, 2014, and negotiations between the city and police union on a contract for 2014-2015 will resume early in the coming year, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said. The city has been paying 100 percent of the Kaiser Bay Area premium for retirees and active employees. Under the contract unanimously approved Monday night, the city will pay them $300 a month and up to 75 percent of the premium, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said. The city also will pay up to 75 percent of the Kaiser premium for employees who retired before July 1, 2000, Whittom said.
The proposed pact also calls for a 5 percent pay reduction effective Jan. 1, 2014. The city’s projected savings under the six-month contract in the current 2013-2014 fiscal year are $2.7 million. Mustard said the city looks at the health care benefits for retirees as an expense and not as a promise. He said he doesn’t have a problem with lower health care benefits for employees who have not yet been hired. “We get it,” Mustard said about the growing unfunded pension and health care liabilities facing cities and counties in California. “We know health care is expensive. It’s a national problem.
Employees recognize it and are willing to help,” Mustard said. He said he is not hopeful about negotiations early next year on a 2014-2015 contract. “I think it will end in litigation,” Mustard said. The 2013-2014 budget includes 106 Vallejo Police Officers Association positions, and as of Monday, there were 83 filled positions, Whittom said. The city is aggressively recruiting officers to fill vacant positions, Whittom said. The police union and the city have been negotiating since May 2012, and the city declared an impasse and presented its last best offer on Sept. 19.
The police union challenged the city’s declaration of impasse in court on Oct. 15. A fact-finding panel was convened on Nov. 1 at the police union’s request. The panel published its findings on Nov. 30. Both sides met on Dec. 6 to discuss the fact-finding panel’s report and explore a possible settlement, but the parties remain deadlocked. That gave the city the right to unilaterally implement the terms of employment at this time and set up Monday’s public hearing and vote on the contract. “We’re pleased the City Council took action. This is an important step to put the city on a sustainable financial path for the future,” Whittom said. “We value our police officers very much and look forward to negotiations in the coming year,” Whittom said.
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