The jobs of 38 union workers were retained in Long Beach on Friday when the CSEA overwhelmingly approved several cost-saving measures for the city, including a two-year wage freeze.
The measures are projected to save the cash-strapped city almost $5 million over the next two years.
The Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) membership voted 195 to 22 to save union jobs and to ease the tax burden on city residents. Other union concessions include a lag in payroll and reductions in overtime.
During the city’s declared fiscal emergency, in which Long Beach is staring at a $10 million budget deficit, officials previously announced that 25 full-time and 42 part-time workers would be laid off, saving $2.5 million each fiscal year.
As a result of the union concessions and Friday’s vote, city officials said that there will be no other layoffs over the next two fiscal years.
“Our members have stepped up to help this city in this fiscal crisis,” said John Mooney, head of the Long Beach CSEA. “I am proud of this union and our members.”
Council members praised the union for making several concessions to get a deal done.
“This was a remarkable effort by CSEA leadership, Councilman [John] McLaughlin and myself,” said Michael Fagen. “Our local union is unlike most municipal unions. They are not just municipal workers. They are our neighbors and our friends, and they decided that the city’s needs should come before theirs and some of their fellow workers. And in the end some great suggestions, along with some strong union leadership, provided a working remedy for the
McLaughlin added that the CSEA has always made sacrifices in times of need. “They have a history of doing that,” said McLaughlin. “Anytime we had anything like that going on, they have stepped up to the plate – during snow storms, hurricanes and now this financial storm. I’m just happy we were able to save these jobs.”
Fagen added: “I would hope that the city would now look at exempt salaries in an effort to offset the proposed water and transit increases.”
He said reeling in the pay for the city’s top-echelon salaried employees such as commissioners and managers would offset a proposal to raise transportation rates 25 percent and water rates 20 percent, which the council members will look at their June 19 meeting.
Fagen said council members have been in negotiations with CSEA leadership on and off for more than a month. He added that the union workers were due step increases in their salaries as per their contract over the next two years, but are “foregoing that to help the city.”
“Otherwise, these people would have been laid off, which would have killed the local economy,” he said. “A lot of people would have lost their homes.”
The Long Beach City Council recently approved an $87.9 million budget, which McLaughlin and Fagen voted to table in a bid to renegotiate contracts and seek other potential cost-saving measures in order to save jobs.
But City Manager Jack Schnirman told Patch that council members are not legally empowered to negotiate on behalf of the city, and that Fagen played no role on the administration’s negotiation team.
“After the first vote failed, we came back to the table and worked together on a package that made sense for everybody,” Schnirman said. “The CSEA worked with us and really played a critical part in helping the city through the financial crisis, and we are grateful.”
Schnirman said that with the agreement, the city meets its savings target and has a balanced budget going forward.
“[W]e now know with certainty what our budget looks like as of July 1, and it is a much improved financial picture of the city going forward, and we’re now officially on the road to financial recovery. We’re happy that 38 workers will be coming back to work and help make the city a great place to live.”
In statement sent Patch, Mooney thanked McLaughlin and Fagen for their ideas, help and support.
“They showed how much they care for the city and the entire workforce,” he said. “I would also like to thank the city manager and his support staff.
* This story was updated at 3:37 p.m. on 6.12.12.