Almanac

News - January 27, 2010

City employee union opens door on negotiations

by Sean Howell

Service Employees International, the union that represents 152 Menlo Park employee positions, has publicly detailed its negotiations with the city in a post on its Web site.

The union, which has been without a contract since late October 2009, provided a summary of negotiations with Menlo Park in a document dated Jan. 21, apparently addressed to its Menlo Park employees. It asked its members to come to the City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26, to "let (the city) know that we want to help but do not want to begin eroding our benefits and our Union rights."

Facing falling revenues and rising costs, the city is working to close what it calls a structural budget deficit. The negotiations come amidst higher-than-usual interest from some residents in the topic of employee pay, with former council member Lee Duboc planning a voter initiative aimed at scaling back pension costs.

In addition to a two-year pay freeze, the union claims the city is asking for 50-50 cost sharing between employees and the city of any increase in pension or medical benefit costs, and the right to impose 5.5 days of furlough time each year on any SEIU employee.

The union also claims that the city is asking for the right to replace union workers with contract labor at the city's discretion. Under the current contract, the city must notify and confer with the union before contracting out a position, but does not need the union's approval, according to Personnel Director Glen Kramer.

The union estimates that the new conditions would result in a 5 percent reduction in take-home pay for workers by October 2011.

Noting that the city is "not willing to commit that executive staff will not get any raises, one-time payments or bonuses," the union asks: "Why isn't executive management committed to help out the same way we are willing to help out? Why will the City not consider our proposals to save money that would have no impact on current workers?

"We need to make the Council understand that we are grateful and committed to be providing for the needs of the City, but that we should also be treated fairly and respectfully."

In mid-December, the city finalized a deal with the union representing 33 city supervisors that calls for a two-year pay freeze. The contract also calls for potential sharing of increased medical and pension costs, though at a lower rate than what the city is reportedly asking SEIU workers to accept.

Calls to the SEIU and to Menlo Park City Manager Glen Rojas were not returned by press time.

As of Monday afternoon, the document was available at tinyurl.com/ydu7thx.

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