Livingston employees reject 7 percent pay cut

07/24/2014 10:06 PM

07/24/2014 10:07 PM

Two Livingston employee groups rejected a concession agreement this week that included a 7 percent pay cut, an extra $100 contribution toward medical insurance and other concessions.

In an effort to shrink a $150,000 budget deficit, city officials have been in closed-door labor negotiations this month with three of five employee unions. A special meeting was held Tuesday to continue discussions with the clerical and public works employees, about 19 people total.

The groups rejected an offer that would cut salaries by 7 percent effective July 1, limit vacation hours that can be cashed out each year from 80 hours to 40 hours and require employees contribute $100 toward medical insurance each month.

City Manager Jose Ramirez said the unions made a counteroffer, but could not discuss the details. This is the second year city employees have taken pay cuts and other concessions, but those agreements expired in July.

Ramirez said the city will save $90,000 this year if the employees agree to the concessions.

Two longtime city employees voiced concerns with the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We just wanted the council to keep in mind that their request is just too much of a cut and it will make a big difference to a lot of people,” said Filomena Arredondo, senior administrative analyst. “Employees are not at fault with issues that have come up with the budget.

“We want them to be considerate and fair,” added Arredondo, who’s worked for the city 28 years.

Connie Payan, an administrative analyst in the public works department, said she’s the head of her household and the cuts will dramatically impact her family. “This is a substantial amount of money that I have earned and that I will lose. This loss of earning will be a detriment to my financial stability,” she said, reading from a letter. “I am going to be struggling to make ends meet.”

Ramirez said the city looked at other areas to make cuts, but is already operating with a “bare bones” budget. The concessions are necessary to avoid employee layoffs and fund increasing costs of retirement plans and workers’ compensation, the city manager added.

“We’ve pretty much cut where we could and there’s no more areas to cut,” Ramirez said. “We’re going into our third year of trying to balance the budget with reduced sales tax and property tax, and also having to pay back certain grants to the state.”

City leaders approved an agreement with the “management and confidential” employee union – which represents five workers – during a council meeting last week. Those employees agreed to a 5 percent cut in the form of 12 furloughs a year, a $100 contribution toward medical insurance, limiting vacation cash-outs to 40 hours and a 1 percent salary reduction.

Ramirez said he’s voluntarily taken concessions similar to those offered to employees, including the 12 furloughs, 1 percent salary reduction and monthly medical contribution. “I’m not going to ask the employees to do something I wouldn’t,” he said.

Officials will also negotiate similar agreements with the city’s two public safety unions, which represent police officers and supervisors.

The current concessions with those two public safety groups are set to expire at the end of December.

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