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Bell Gardens Labor Talks Lead to Agreements, Impasse

The Bell Gardens City Council approved labor agreements with two of its unions but declared an impasse with three other city unions during Monday’s Special City Council meeting.

Two-year agreements were reached with the City Employees Association (CEA) and Police Management Association (PMA) prior to the meeting and the Council ratified those agreements, according to Assistant City Manager Phil Wagner.

However, the city was unable to reach agreements with the Police Officers Association (POA), Public Works Association (PWA) and Public Works Supervisors Association (PWSA) and an impasse was declared, Wagner said.

“Since we were not able to come to agreement, the City Council imposed one-year agreements on these three labor groups for the fiscal year 2011-12. There are no layoffs proposed at this time,” he said in an email.

The City Employees Association (CEA)’s two-year agreement includes a 4 percent employee contribution to the PERS retirement fund, 62 furlough hours, no leave cash-out, caps on health coverage for family members, and 24 hours of additional floating holiday leave.

In the second year, the employee’s PERS contribution will go up to 8 percent, and vacation cash-out for up to 40 hours could be allowed.

Key items in the Police Management Association’s (PMA) agreement includes a 9 percent employee contribution to PERS, with 4.5 percent being due upon completion of the agreement,  and 4.5 percent due January 1, 2012; no cash-outs of leave time; caps on health coverage; and two days of additional holiday leave. In the second year of the agreement, cash-outs could be allowed for up to 80 hours of vacation time and 96 hours of sick time.

Disagreements with the other city employee groups ranged from employee contributions to the retirement fund to being able to cash out unused sick days, as well as a new workweek schedule.

The Police Officers Association (POA) and the city could not agree on the employee portion of the PERS contribution, or on caps on health insurance costs, according to Monday nights’ staff report.
The Public Works Association (PWA) and the city could not come to terms over the implementation of a 4 day-at-10 hours per day (4/10 work schedule). The city had proposed a one-year trial period, but the negotiations failed, according to the staff report.

The Public Works Supervisors Association (PWSA) and city negotiations failed to reach an agreement regarding an additional take-home vehicle and reduction of sick leave cash-out upon departure.

These three groups will be paying 100 percent of the employee portion of PERS. The employee portion of PERS is 9 percent of compensation for the Police Officers Association and 8 percent of compensation for the Public Works Association and Public Works Supervisors Association, according to Finance Director Will Kaholokula. These employees will pay 50 percent now and 100 percent of the employee portion of PERS beginning on January 1, 2012, he said.

In addition, all three groups will now have caps on the amount the city will pay for medical insurance at the 2012 health insurance rates, according to Kaholokula.

In it’s report to the city council, staff noted that a number of other local cities have used cuts to employee benefits to balance their budgets and to help stave off continuing negative impacts from the slow economy on city governments.

The report also noted that declines in revenue from the Bicycle Casino, increases in retiree and health care costs, as well as looming $8.75 bond balloon payment due in Aug. 2012, had created a deficit in the Southeast city, where the unemployment rate is still over 20 percent.

The labor agreements and imposed conditions save the city approximately $775,000 and cuts the city’s $1.2 million budget deficit to about $425,000.

“You are correct in saying that the City was not able to eliminate their entire budget deficit through employee concessions,” Kaholokula said. “Part of the reason is the amount of time it took us to finalize the deals—3 months after the beginning of the fiscal year.”