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The city of Sacramento sent out pink slips to about 90 employees Wednesday because city management and two unions have not yet found common ground in their contract negotiations.
However, Interim Assistant City Manager Patti Bisharat said city officials have not given up on efforts to resolve their differences with the unions.
In June, the city closed a $43 million budget gap for the 2011 fiscal year.
The two unions that have not made concessions are Stationary Engineers Local 39 and Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447. Local 39 represents employees in numerous city departments, including Utilities, Transportation and Community Development.
Bisharat said Tuesday that the city was still actively negotiating with the unions and “still hopeful” for an agreement to avoid layoffs. But the city sent out layoff notices in order “to pull the trigger if we need to,” Bisharat said.
If the negotiations end successfully, then city management will retract the pink slips, she said.
But if talks do not improve soon, the laying off of about 90 employees will go into effect Aug. 6, according to Bisharat.
Joan Bryant, director of public employees for Local 39, said it was “very disturbing” that the city sent out layoff notices Wednesday. The union has faced layoffs of more than 200 workers in the past two years, she said. The union represents about 1,500 workers locally.
“The city has an obligation to cut its spending and stop cutting workers at every turn,” Bryant said, “because pretty soon you’re going to have no one to cut.”
She claimed that the city is laying off workers to put pressure on the union to accept the city’s demands.
Local 39 is continuing to negotiate with the city, she said, but noted that the city’s specific requests are “not something that we will likely jump into.”
The city is asking Local 39 to sign off on a three-year contract that would end in June 2013, according to city spokeswoman Amy Williams. A 4 percent pay cut would go into effect now with the proposed contract, Williams wrote in an e-mail. Starting in June 2012, employees covered under the contract would receive a 5 percent raise.
Among other details, the contract would include a monthly furlough day throughout the three-year period, Wiliams wrote.
When the City Council balanced Sacramento’s budget on June 22, it extended negotiation talks with three unions for 30 days. One of the unions, the Auto, Marine and Specialty Painters Local 1176, made concessions to the city last week, Bisharat said.
The city had hoped to use savings from labor concessions to balance its budget. But when city managers didn’t gain concessions from unions by June 22, the City Council decided to allow an extra month for negotiations.
Since the city didn’t have the savings from concessions in June, the City Council moved $648,000 in other funds to help fill the budget hole.
The layoffs of about 90 employees would mark a second group of layoffs for the city this summer. About 50 employees worked their last day on July 16, Williams said.
Harry Rotz, the business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447, could not be reached because he was out of town Wednesday, according to the union’s office.
Photo by Brandon Darnell.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.